Quantum Computing - Can it Power the Airplanes in Our Sky?

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Quantum computing is poised to change our world. There is mounting pressure to reduce our energy consumption while at the same time develop the capacity to make more complex computations in all industries as technology continues to evolve to handle more elaborate tasks.

It is predicted that by 2040 our use of classical computing will grow to consume more energy than the grid can provide. This is a huge problem given our growing reliance on computing in all industries. The answer lies in quantum computing.

Difference Between Classical and Quantum Computing

Whereas classical computing uses transistors to process, quantum computing uses atoms instead. This elevates quantum’s capabilities over that of traditional computers because with transistors information can only be stored in two states, as 0s or 1s, but quantum can store far more information while using less energy as it utilizes qubits, allowing data to be stored as 0s, 1s or anything in between.

This allows it to process data in parallel, rather than linear. Due to this fundamental difference in data storage, quantum computing has the capabilities of solving complex problems in any industry, while at the same time reducing its energy consumption.

Possible Applications of Quantum Computing in the Aviation Industry

Aviation is already leveraging this power. Airbus Group, NASA and Lookheed Martin have made huge investments into this area in order to investigate quantum computing’s potential uses. At this stage, it is mostly being used to aid research and development. For example, today, engineers are looking at around 7 years of digital modelling and simulation to test new designs.

These tests are paramount to ensuring new models are safe to fly by investigating airflow over the wing and ensuring the design as efficient as possible, cutting fuel usage, enhancing drag reduction and improving lift. Quantum computing could complete the same processes in a few weeks, drastically cutting development time and changing the way new aircraft will be developed in the future. For this reason, Airbus is focusing intently on the area of research and development with its investments in quantum computing.

Other uses of quantum computing that will be used to assist planes before they enter our skies include wing box design, computational fluid dynamics, development of aircraft climb and loading. In addition, the power provided by quantum computing will have the ability to debug software and solve computational errors significantly faster than conventional computing currently can. Further to this, quantum computing will be used to make more accurate calculations, resulting in improved route planning and scheduling, improving fuel consumption.

These are all applications of quantum computing aiding aircraft on the ground, but what about quantum computing being used to help planes in our skies? Currently, there are few applications of quantum computing aiding the process of flying planes, as the technology is still new and under development. However, clocks are an essential piece of equipment for pilots. Communication of information is reaching natural “chokepoints” due to the inability to control with enough precision the time at which data is switched. Atomic clocks produced by quantum computing would provide more accurate timekeeping.

Other than this, quantum computing being used onboard aircraft is still in the conceptual stage. It is estimated that we may be waiting at least another 10 years before we see quantum processors onboard commercial aircraft. Right now, its primary uses remain on the ground, making calculations and aiding in research and development.

Summary

The technology may be in its infancy, however, we are already looking toward a future where quantum computing will be assisting aircraft, from concept and development right through to planning flight paths, calculating fuel consumption, and even being used inside of Flight Management Computers (FMC). Quantum computing will have the impact of reducing emissions from the aviation industry, due to increased fuel efficiency, as well as speeding up the process of getting new aircraft into the skies. It will also be relied upon to solve computational problems with speed and efficiency, further supporting the safety of air travel.

Source

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Sarah Moore

Written by

Sarah Moore

After studying Psychology and then Neuroscience, Sarah quickly found her enjoyment for researching and writing research papers; turning to a passion to connect ideas with people through writing.

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