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While still in its infancy, quantum technology is already preparing to disrupt industries worldwide, and aviation is one of the first sectors already getting on board with it.
Many key players in the aviation industry are recognizing the game-changing abilities quantum will bring to the sector, and are already embracing the technology in order to solve the industry’s most complex challenges, with the aim of generating a profound shift in the quality of products and services offered by aviation.
Improving Aerospace Innovation with Quantum Technologies
The best thinkers in quantum technologies across disciplines are joining forces to extract the power that quantum offers, devising the best ways to leverage it in aviation. The future will see quantum impacting on optimization, machine learning, debugging code, and resolving complex computational problems.
In a nutshell, quantum is being seen as the resolution to speeding up the research and design phase of innovation, as well as being used to develop processes and equipment to make flying safer, more efficient and more cost-effective. Industry players such as Airbus Group, NASA and Lookheed Martin have all made sizeable investments into quantum in recent years, and we’re just beginning to see the potential of how it can be leveraged in aerospace innovation.
Types of Quantum Technologies
Three quantum technologies in particular will be the first focuses for improving innovation in aerospace. Firstly, we are seeing a lot of research going into the development of quantum computing’s uses in the sector.
Aviation has complex computational needs relating to fluid dynamics, finite-element simulations, aerodynamics and flight mechanics, amongst others. Quantum will help solve these problems because the way it processes information means that it is far more powerful than even the super-computers we have access to today.
Traditional computing works on storing information in binary format, using transistors to store information as either a 1 or a 0, the result of this is that information can only be processed in linear. However, quantum computing uses qubits in place of transistors, and these can store information as both a 1 and a 0, meaning that data can be processed in parallel.
The force of the quantum computer can reduce processing time into just a fraction of what it would be with a traditional computer, and not only can it improve on speed, but it can also process complex problems that are outside the realm of conventional computing.
How this will impact on aerospace innovation is that it will speed up the research and design phase of development. Using traditional computers it can take years to run the simulations to model airflow over the wing. This would allow designers to maximise efficiency, lower fuel consumption, reduce drag and improve lift.
Quantum computing will also support innovations of in-flight systems. Standard aircraft can have over 120 million lines of code in its software, the speed at which quantum computing can process can accelerate the verification and validation process, ensuring for optimum safety during flights.
The second technology that will be of focus is quantum communication. Today’s encryption methods will become redundant with quantum computing’s abilities. For this reason, innovations are under development to create secure a communications infrastructure for the aerospace sector and all its technologies, this will be based on quantum information technologies to enhance security.
Quantum sensing will be the third focus. Plane navigation systems rely on accurate and reliable readings from a number of physical factors, such as frequency, acceleration, rotation rates, electric and magnetic fields and temperature. Airbus views that use of quantum sensors can be used to achieve the highest relative and absolute accuracy.
All these quantum technologies will have a significant impact in the way innovations happen in the aviation industry. They are causing a massive paradigm shift, allowing for development to happen in a new, shorter timeframe, as well as boosting safety and improving on the quality of products and services available.