Create a local quantum network using a drone

Target acquisition. The beam from one drone is displayed throughout the test area. Credit: X.-H. Tian, ​​H.-Y. Liu, & Z. Xie / Nanjing Univ.

A team of researchers from several institutions in China have used drones to prototype small aerial quantum networks.In their treatise published in the journal Physical review letterResearchers describe the transmission of entangled particles from one drone to another, and from one drone to the ground.

Computer scientists, physicists, and engineers have been working on building usable quantum networks for the past few years. To do this, you need to send intertwined particles between users, resulting in the most secure network ever. As part of that effort, researchers sent intertwined particles through fiber-optic cables between towers and even from satellites to the ground. In this new initiative, researchers have added a new element, the drone.

Satellites seem to be the ideal solution for building long-range quantum networks. However, for smaller networks, such as communication between users in the same city, another option is needed. Towers can be useful to some extent, but they are subject to weather and blockages, whether intentional or unintentional. To avoid this problem, researchers used drones to carry signals.

This work involved building a small laser-generating device and attaching it to one of the drones. When ignited, the photons were split in two, creating an intertwined pair. One of the paired photons was pointed at another drone and the other at the ground station. The drone that received the intertwined photons acted only as a relay. After refocusing, the photons were transferred to the third drone and sent to the second ground station. The drone used an electric device to ensure that the transmitter and receiver were properly aligned to transmit intertwined photons.

In the prototype, photons were transmitted at only 1 km, but researchers suggest that moving the drone higher will allow transmission at distances of up to 300 km. They also suggest that this technology can be adapted to include vehicles moving on the ground. They also note that both drones and ground stations can be connected to networks that include satellites. And they also point out that their work was the first to send intertwined particles between two moving devices.

Correlate tangled photons with radial position and momentum

For more information:
Hua-Ying Liu et al. Optical relay entanglement distribution using drone as mobile node, Physical review letter (2021). DOI: 10.1103 / PhysRevLett.126.020503

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Create a local quantum network using a drone

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