Aquark deploys cold atom quantum tech on drone system

University of Southampton spinout Aquark Technologies has demonstrated continuous trapping of cold atoms suitable for sensing while flying on a drone. Cold atom-based quantum technologies support quantum computing and high-precision sensing, with implications for measuring time, acceleration, electromagnetic waves, magnetic fields, and rotation. The approach uses groups of one or two elements, such as rubidium, in ultrahigh vacuum conditions and precisely tuned lasers to confine and slow down atoms for the manipulation of quantum states of superposition and entanglement.

The trials were run in partnership and jointly funded by missile systems developer MBDA, as well as Innovate UK, and flown by Wright Airborne Computing.

The complete quadcopter drone system used in the demonstrations weighed less than 10 kg; withstood freezing temperatures, high-humidity fog, and complex maneuvers; and operated for over an hour on internal power during full-day trials, Aquark said. Company CEO Andrei Dragomir said the demonstrations mark a step toward off-the-shelf cold atom systems, ranging from high-performance cold atom atomic clocks to gravimeters in particular.