NASA to test quantum lidar remote sensing with QCI

NASA has leveraged sensing technologies in a number of ways, and also has been aggressive in exploring the capabilities of quantum technology. Now, it is set to get an assist from a small quantum computing company in Virginia as it begins to test quantum sensing solutions for the purpose of monitoring climate change.

Quantum Computing (QC), a self-described full-stack photonic-based quantum computing and solutions company that is based in Leesburg, Virginia, said it has earned a subcontract award from NASA contractor SSAI to test one of its proprietary quantum photonic systems for remote sensing applications. Under the subcontract, QCI will test an existing lidar system designed to remotely measure (“remotely” in this case meaning from spaceborne or airborne craft) the physical properties of different types of snowpacks, including the density, particle size and depth, based on a recent breakthrough theory.

The quantum lidar measurements from these tests will be used to calculate how much water could be released when snow melts and could be used for other similar predictive analyses. A quantum-based lidar sensing system could be used to inform decisions and indicate changes in weather patterns which have a significant impact on water reserves available both for agricultural facilities and in cities, which for example are critically impacting many areas in California.

“Our Quantum Photonic LiDAR leverages the latest development in quantum information technology to provide capabilities unmatched by traditional lidar,” said QCI CEO Robert Liscouski. “The significant advantages include extremely high detection sensitivity at a single photon level, strong noise rejection by using electronic and/or optical gated detectors, and high timing resolution at picosecond levels. As such, QCI LiDAR is able to remotely measure subtle physics properties of scattering media, including snow, fog, and turbid water, even at very low light level. This opens doors to airborne and spaceborne deployment at global scale.”

QCI is fulfilling the NASA subcontract through a wholly owned subsidiary, QI Solutions, the company launched this month. The new business unit’s mission is to work directly with federal government agencies to explore the use cases for this rapidly emerging market for quantum technologies.

“This is a major step for QCI in demonstrating the application of its technology,” said Sean Gabeler, President of QiSolutions. “QiSolutions was established specifically for this type of effort, and we are ready to execute to ensure success for this project.”

The project will proceed with laboratory testbeds over the coming months and eventually airborne testing if all goes well, with the ultimate goal to position the quantum lidar units on satellites to create a network for monitoring snow levels globally.