Skip to main content

Quantum Next Generation (QNG) 2021 Quantum Camouflage Challenge

QNG21 was the first in a regular series of technology challenges involving Australia’s talented postgraduate students, early career researchers, and early-stage start-up entrepreneurs.

Army understands that this next generation will ultimately drive the growth of Australia’s quantum industry and deliver Army the sovereign quantum advantage it desires. QNG21 aimed to embolden, orientate, network and develop this next generation while solving an important Army problem.

The QNG21 Challenge was to invent a means to conceal our soldiers from the looming threat of detection by ultra-precise quantum sensors. Specifically, countermeasure technologies that interfere with adversarial quantum magnetometers that are seeking to detect the magnetic signatures of Army’s equipment, vehicles, weapons etc.

This threat posed by quantum magnetometers was identified by the subterranean challenge of the Quantum Technology Challenge 2021 (QTC21). There, teams employed prototype quantum magnetometers to perform a range of detection demonstrations, including rifle-sized objects passing through sewer-like tunnels and armored vehicle-sized objects passing through 85 m deep reinforced tunnels. Significant work is still required to refine, miniaturise and harden these prototypes for integration into deployable sensor systems (such as ground-based arrays and UXVs). However, their demonstration at QTC21 established the capabilities of this new technology and its implications for future land warfare.

Tackling the QNG21 Challenge will not only lead to a countermeasure to adversarial quantum magnetometers, but also to the improved design and protection of Army’s quantum magnetometers against adversarial countermeasures.

QNG21 participants were asked to form teams of up to four people. They then were asked to:

  • submit a two-page proposal (including a letter of support from their supervisor/ convener)
  • undergo a short selection process
  • develop and demonstrate the concept of their solution
  • deliver a solution report and a pitch at the QNG21 Pitchfest in December 2021.

All participants were rewarded with coaching sessions with Army personnel, free registration to the Australian Institute of Physics (AIP) Summer Meeting, and professional filming and publication of their pitch. It was a great way of building defence and industry networks and advertising what they can do to their future employers, customers, funding agencies and investors.

The top-ranked teams received special invitations and admission to the Army Robotics Expo 2022, Quantum Technology Challenge 2022 (QTC22) and the Army Innovation Day 2022, as well as an invitation to submit a proposal for funding to further develop their solution and demonstrate it as a special entrant into QTC22 (see the video of QTC21).

Outcomes of Quantum Next Generation 2021 and Quantum Camouflage Challenge 2021

At the conclusion of the development phase, Challenge teams were invited to present their solutions at a ‘Pitchfest’, which was conducted as part of the AIP Summer Meeting. In the Pitchfest, teams from each Challenge competed with one another for the opportunity to receive special admission to the Army Robotics Expo 2022, Quantum Technology Challenge 2022 (QTC22) and the Army Innovation Day 2022.  The prize also included an invitation to submit a proposal for funding to further develop their solution and to demonstrate it as a special entrant into QTC22.

Challenge teams were assessed against a range of criteria including:

  • the extent to which the proposed solution solved the challenge and could be employed by Army.
  • the feasibility of developing the technology required and for it to perform as predicted
  • technical depth and quality.
  • the anticipated timeframe to develop the solution in line with the development of quantum magnetometer field deployment.
  • overall team performance demonstrated by the amount and quality of work. completed and the presentation of required reports and the final pitch presentation.

The assessment was conducted by an evaluation panel of senior military officers, and quantum community experts from research and industry, with the Pitchfest itself observed by attendees, both onsite at the AIP Summer Meeting and online around Australia.

Joint Quantum Next Generation and Quantum Camouflage Challenge Pitchfest

Challenge solutions

QNG21 had two Challenge teams participating. The teams and the solutions they pitched were:

  • Australian National University (ANU) investigated characteristics of the earth’s background and the limitations of UAV mounted quantum magnetometers. This team focused on environmental characterisation that would allow land forces to use the earth’s magnetic background to mask their magnetic signature as a planning consideration when moving through the battle space, including the potential use of decoy magnetic field generators.
  • Queensland University of Technology (QUT) proposed a solution that would suppress the magnetic signature of an armoured fighting vehicle in real time. The solution used measurements of the earth’s background magnetic field strength, the magnetic field strength above the vehicle along with the vehicle’s magnetic signature. These measurements would then be used to determine the appropriate strength of a magnetic field to be generated by a distributed 3-axis magnetic field generator with the aim of reducing the apparent signature of the vehicle to within the detection limits of an adversary’s UAV.
    QUT S.M.A.R.T. (Suppression of Magnetic Anomalies in Real Time) System displayed. A land battlespace on the ground inside a bubble with lines depicting magnetic field lines with arrows pointing upward from the ground and a UAV flying in the sky
    Figure 1 – Top-ranked QNG Team from Queensland University of Technology solution of suppression of magnetic anomalies in real time.

QCamo21 had four Challenge teams competing. The teams and their solutions were:

  • 10 Light Horse Regiment (XLH) from Western Australia proposed  the application of maritime techniques to reduce the magnetic signature by de-gaussing and de-perming land capability equipment to reduce its overall magnetic signature. The solution would be a theatre deployable asset that could be used for small arms through to vehicle systems.
    Solution concept of a deployable system for reducing the magnetic signature of equipment in the land domain by the top-ranked QCamo team from 10th Light Horse Regiment
    Figure 2 – Solution concept of a deployable system for reducing the magnetic signature of equipment in the land domain by the top-ranked QCamo team from 10th Light Horse Regiment.
  • Electronic Warfare Quantum Computing (EWQC)  presented interfering with the quantum magnetometer itself by targeting specific frequency bands in the electromagnetic spectrum to interfere with the internal operation of the sensor.Quantum Mechanics, an inter-service team consisting of Army and Navy members, proposed a solution called the Deceptive Projectile Generator. This would use a form of magnetic obscuration using a projectile launched system in a similar fashion to smoke grenades or anti radar chaff used by aircraft
  • Emu Riders and Land Dwellers solution used several networked sensors mounted on vehicles, personnel and decoys to measure background magnetic readings and to generate magnetic fields to mask friendly forces within the limitations of the detector system.

Challenge outcomes

The judges were impressed by the level of technical depth and the amount of experimental and simulation work done by both of the QNG21 teams. They developed well-grounded, and scientifically accurate, solutions to a potential application and domain in which they may not have had close familiarity.

Equally, the wide array of credible solutions posed by the QCamo21 service teams demonstrated to the assessment panel the high level of technical expertise that Defence can harness outside of its traditional capability and technology work areas. The QCamo21 teams provided ideas that ranged from the application of in-service equipment for other applications, modification of other service techniques to the land domain, and ideas that were novel and creative.

For QNG21, QUT was the winning team, comprising Timothy Cosgrove and Fraser Williams, for their Suppression of Magnetic Anomalies in Real Time (SMART) proposal. The winning QCamo21 team was XLH from the 10th Light Horse Regiment for their deployable de-perming station.

The winning teams were invited to continue the development of their solutions, to then present at Army’s Quantum Technology Challenge in August 2022 alongside industry proposals. Both winning teams were offered travel to, and attendance at, the Army Robotics Expo. All competing Challenge teams were invited to send one representative to attend the ARX and Quantum Technology Challenge sponsored by Army.

Last updated: