Q-CTRL digest

Demonstrating record-breaking quantum sensing for critical Army missions with magnetometry for RF emitter detection

November 10, 2022
Written by
Russell Anderson

Our quantum sensing division has hit the ground running by showcasing its capabilities publicly for the first time at the Australian Army Quantum Technology Challenge 2022 (QTC22).

The event, held earlier this year in Adelaide, required participants to address mission statements set by the Army.

Our team proposed, developed, and demonstrated a quantum solution to ‘locate an electromagnetic emitter in the battlespace.’

In the process, they delivered the first ever demonstration of a field-deployed quantum magnetometer array to passively localize a source of radio waves (like a drone trying to communicate), with the ability to locate the source more than 100X better than previous active detection results published in the literature.

A three dimensional CAD render of Q_CTRL’s 2x2 quantum magnetometer array locating a small electromagnetic emitter

This hands-on demonstration utilized a 2 x 2 array of quantum magnetometers based on atoms probed with laser light to detect and localize -  in real time - a radio-frequency emitter in the VLF–LF bands (3–300 kHz).

Representatives from different parts of Army and Navy, including the Chief of Army, were able to move the emitter and watch it being tracked in real time.

The demonstration was extremely well received, with the Q-CTRL booth attracting large numbers of Australian Defence Force personnel, across a wide range of military ranks and operational roles.

Real time localization

The purpose of this demonstration was threefold: 

  1. To highlight the potential of quantum magnetometers for battlespace electromagnetic detection;
  2. To demonstrate our capability to rapidly develop a proof-of-principle solution; and
  3. To stand up a workbench for evaluating key performance metrics such as sensitivity, range, and deployability in an ongoing program focused on different operating modes and advantages of quantum control.

A practical demonstration such as this paves the way towards translating quantum magnetometers from historically laboratory-based devices into portable, field-deployed sensors with immediate real-world applications, such as detecting drones from a distance and localizing them in the battlespace.

In addition, we have identified new opportunities for software-defined quantum sensors, to enable mode-switching between broadband and tunable narrowband in real time, a capability beyond existing sensors.

Our team are experts in quantum control infrastructure software and software-defined quantum hardware, and we are excited to have debuted our first-ever quantum hardware demonstrator at the Army Quantum Technology Challenge this year.

By combining advances in system design with new modes of operation unlocked by advanced software, AI automation, and signal processing, our quantum sensing technology enables capabilities that are impossible with existing systems.

The new devices can have real-world impact in defense, positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT), minerals exploration, magnetic anomaly detection, persistent earth observation for climate monitoring, long-term weather forecasting and space exploration.

Our sensing team is particularly focused on the earth observation market, valued at $8 billion per year, and the PNT market, valued at $14 billion per year.

Learn more about quantum sensing.