ISRO Demonstrates India's First Free-Space Quantum Communication

CioreviewIndia Team | Tuesday, 23 March 2021, 06:51 IST

ISRO

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has successfully demonstrated free-space Quantum Communication over a distance of 300 meters, for the first time in the country, the organization said Monday.

Kailasavadivoo Sivan, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation, states, “This is a major breakthrough for SAC (space applications centre) engineers who have demonstrated quantum communication between two buildings on March 19. Today, advanced computers can break encryption and future strategic communication will need quantum communication. Every country will need this and we have demonstrated it.”

The technology will be useful for a range of strategic sectors ranging from defence to digital money transactions, among other things and ISRO has plans for extending this to satellites as well. Last month, a team led by Prof Urbasi Sinha had demonstrated a similar technology that was developed as part of the Quantum Experiments using Satellite Technology (QuEST) project.

Sivan adds, “While we are working with others on quantum technology, the demonstration we did last week was a technology developed at SAC. The most important thing is that we will be able to extend this to the satellites given that it is a free space quantum technology. That will be a quantum jump.”

According to ISRO, a number of key technologies were developed indigenously to accomplish this major feat, which included the use of developed NAVIC receiver for time synchronization between the transmitter and receiver modules, and gimbal mechanism systems instead of bulky large-aperture telescopes for optical alignment. The demonstration has included live videoconferencing using quantum-key-encrypted signals. This is a major milestone achievement for unconditionally secured satellite data communication using quantum technologies.

ISRO states, “The Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) technology underpins Quantum Communication technology that ensures unconditional data security by virtue of the principles of quantum mechanics, which is not possible with the conventional encryption systems.”

The free-space QKD was demonstrated between two line-of-sight buildings within the campus. The experiment was performed at night, in order to ensure that there is no interference from the direct sunlight.

The space agency states, “The experiment is a major breakthrough towards ISRO’s goal of demonstrating Satellite-Based Quantum Communication (SBQC), where ISRO was gearing up to demonstrate the technology between two Indian ground stations.” 

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