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Army Quantum Technology Challenge 2021

Army Quantum Technology Challenge 2021

The first Army Quantum Technology Challenge (QTC 2021) will be held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre on 20 April 2021. The Challenge will see teams of Australia’s world-leading quantum scientists and engineers compete to show how quantum technologies can conceptually deliver Army unprecedented capabilities, including:

  • Making the ground transparent: imaging what is hidden subterranean
  • Resupplying troops in battle quickly, safely and efficiently: optimisation of large-scale resupply by squads of autonomous uncrewed ground vehicles.
  • Denying the enemy secure communications: countermeasures quantum encryption.

QTC 2021 will be the first in a regular series of challenges that will enable Army to leverage Australia’s national strategic strength in quantum technology to rapidly identify the most disruptive and advantageous applications of quantum technologies for the land domain. Future challenges will respond to opportunities and problems identified by members of Army and the wider quantum technology community.

The challenges are a key component of Army’s Quantum Technology Roadmap, which will also be launched at QTC 2021. The Roadmap also contains plans for the development of the high-value applications and technologies identified by the challenges, focussed on Army’s needs. The Roadmap, a recording of the launch and recordings of the pitches by each of the QTC 2021 teams will be published. Follow the link above to learn how to be alerted to and access these publications and recordings.

If you wish to find out more about quantum technologies, their defence applications and the strategic imperative for Army to act, see this blog post.

Keep reading to find out more about the remarkable teams competing in QTC and their innovative solutions.

Making the ground transparent     

QuantX Labs. QuantX Labs will demonstrate the potential for advanced quantum magnetometry to precisely detect subterranean structures and materiel in the field. In partnership with researchers, they have developed world-class magnetic sensors. These affordable optical magnetic sensors have been used in an array, paired with a processing unit and tested in the field to detect magnetic fluctuations in real-time. By focusing on sensor precision, QuantX Labs has demonstrated that it can achieve globally leading sensitivity levels with high accuracy, overcome background noise and determine size and location of magnetic and metallic targets.

QuantX Labs’ quantum magnetometer and control unit
Figure 1. QuantX Labs’ quantum magnetometer and control unit in field testing. Image provided by QuantX Labs

Integrated Atomic Sensors Team. A DefendTex led team, including researchers from Monash University and RMIT University, have devised a solution for quantum sensing of subterranean structures by quantum based Magnetic Induction Tomography (MIT). Dr Lincoln Turner, Prof Arnan Mitchell and Dr Bill Corcoran are experts in optoelectronics, signal processing and laser fabrication, with complementary expertise in the focus areas necessary to rapidly model the potential for landscape-scale MIT with integrated quantum sensors.

MIT is an active sensing method for mapping conductivity in two or three dimensions. DefendTex will use MIT to identify localised change thereby detecting an anomoly. This capability will be deployed in field environments.

The concept of tunnel detection via quantum-based magnetic induction tomography
Figure 2. The concept of tunnel detection via quantum-based magnetic induction tomography. Image provided by DefendTex

Quantum Diamond Magnetometers (QDM). This team from the University of Melbourne, RMIT and Phasor Innovation are seeking to develop the next generation of quantum-based magnetometers to help Army identify the presence, nature and movement of materials in subterranean environments. Precision magnetometers provide a unique perspective of the subterranean environment.

The QDM team is carrying out detailed analysis of the magnetic signatures that arise from the movement of different materiél through subterranean structures and using this analysis to design field-deployable quantum diamond magnetometers that can capture the signatures. The QDM team will showcase this technology at QTC 2021.

The heart of a diamond quantum magnetometer - a fluorescent red diamond illuminated by a green laser
Figure 3. The heart of a diamond quantum magnetometer: a fluorescent red diamond illuminated by a green laser. Image provided by QDM team

Resupplying troops in battle quickly, safely and efficiently

DWave and NEC. NEC Australia, a wholly owned subsidiary of NEC Corporation (NEC), and the quantum computing firm D-Wave will demonstrate the use of hybrid quantum computing technology to solve a “last mile resupply” problem at QTC 2021. 

D-Wave’s quantum computer leverages quantum dynamics to accelerate and enable new methods for solving discrete optimisation, sampling and machine learning problems. The business has developed and released five generations of quantum systems. The latest system, the Advantage™ quantum computer, enables customers to develop and run in-production hybrid quantum applications. Access to Advantage is through Leap™, the quantum cloud service.

D-Wave’s Advantage™ quantum computer
Figure 4. D-Wave’s Advantage™ quantum computer. Image provided by D-Wave Systems Inc.

Q-CTRL. Q-CTRL is an Australian SME developing advanced quantum-powered technologies through a globally unique focus on quantum control.

For QTC 2021, Q-CTRL is addressing the problem of optimally resupplying multiple distributed force elements from a central depot using unmanned ground vehicles.  As the number of vehicles, force elements and parcels increase, the computational challenge of this logistic optimisation problem grows to a point where quantum computers are expected to show advantage.

Q-CTRL is working to bring the threshold of quantum advantage closer via a combination of algorithmic design and hardware-performance augmentation.  Q-CTRL will offer a resource-efficient algorithmic encoding and stabilized quantum computer hardware using quantum control infrastructure software.  The net result of this combined approach is a major expansion in the capability of quantum computing hardware for defence-critical missions.

Q-CTRL’s concept image of their QTC 2021 solution
Figure 5. Q-CTRL’s concept image of their QTC 2021 solution. Image provided by Q-CTRL

Heuristic Algorithm Quantum Computing Team. The Heuristic Algorithm Quantum Computing (HAQC) team are creating an end-to-end quantum solution for supply optimisation problems using a combined approach exploiting the power of both quantum computers and high performance classical computers (HPC). Through collaboration with the IBM Quantum Network, the quantum circuit is converted to a hardware-ready form ready to run on physical quantum devices. A key feature of the interdisciplinary HAQC team’s approach is to employ instance-space analysis using the MATILDA system over many cases of the problem to unpick the relative difficulty of the problem solved by the quantum computation. Producing an end-to-end solution suitable for implementation on physical quantum computers, coupled with quantitative instance-space analysis, the HAQC team aims to answer the critical question of if/when quantum advantage can be achieved for supply optimisation problems in the near-term.

Snapshot of the Quantum User Interface (QUI)
Figure 6. Snapshot of the Quantum User Interface (QUI) system quantum computer programming and simulation environment (image copyright UoM)
Interior of a state-of-the-art IBM Quantum computing system
Figure 7. Interior of a state-of-the-art IBM Quantum computing system, similar to those accessed via the IBM Quantum Hub @ The University of Melbourne (image copyright

Denying the enemy secure communications

EQUS-UWA-UQ. Quantum key distribution satellites allow distant users to exchange messages with each other via an un-hackable communications link. The EQUS–UWA-UQ collaboration brings together expertise from across Australia to develop systems to disrupt satellite-mediated quantum key distribution, with the aim of providing a countermeasure to this emerging technology.

The team are working to develop portable, ground-based terminals that will transmit signals that interfere with the sensitive detectors that receive the quantum key which is then used to encrypt and secure the communications channel. The team are investigating the extent to which these signals will reduce the usable communications rate, or jam the quantum key distribution entirely.

The WA Optical Ground Station
Figure 8. The WA Optical Ground Station located on the roof of the UWA Physics building in Perth. Image provided by UWA

The views expressed in this article and subsequent comments are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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