A new age of the internet using drones-known as the quantum internet—may soon happen.
A fleet of drones could theoretically create a quantum network by transmitting quantum particles among the fleet’s formation, and relaying the particles to ground stations at various locations within a city.
Researchers from Nanjing University in China report that photons were sent to two locations a kilometer apart. This means scientists can now use drones to transmit particles of light, or photons, that share the quantum linkage called entanglement.
The science behind the quantum internet
The entangled quantum particles can keep their interconnected properties even when separated by long distances. Such contrary behavior can be used to allow new types of communication.
Quantum networks are made with fiber-optic cables. Some places such as China are already beginning to use such networks. A quantum satellite can transmit photons across China.
The researchers used two drones to transmit the photons. One drone created pairs of entangled particles, sending one particle to a station on the ground, while relaying the other to the second drone.
The particle received by the machine was then transmitted to a ground station a kilometer away from the first. In the future, fleets of drones could work together to send entangled particles to recipients in a variety of locations.
Possible use of the quantum internet
In the future, scientists aim to build a global quantum internet that relies on transmitting quantum particles to enable secure communications safe from hackers, by using the particles to create secret codes to encrypt messages.
A quantum internet could also allow quantum computers far away from each other to work together, or perform experiments that test the limits of quantum physics.
Drones could serve as another technology for such networks, with the advantages of being easily movable as well as being relatively quick and cheap to use.