Radars are being installed at the top of an engineering building at the University of Birmingham as part of a demonstration intended to test and prove the precision of quantum-enabled radar detection capabilities.

“A key part of keeping everyday life secure is being able to detect dangerous or unsafe situations before they occur. Quantum enabled radar technology research, undertaken by academics at the UK Quantum Technology Hub Sensors and Timing, aims to do precisely this.”

The Quantum Technology Hub is led by the University of Birmingham and partnered with the Universities of Glasgow, Strathclyde, Sussex, Imperial, Nottingham, Southampton as well as the National Physics Laboratory and the British Geological Survey.

Quantum radars could provide users with enough detail to identify aircraft, missiles, and other aerial targets by specific model, you can read more about their potential impact on warfare here.

The radars are being developed and installed by Aveillant, a radar technology company whose mission is to move radar technology into the information age by powering a full digital picture of the sky.

The radar technology being exhibited at the demonstration is dependent on the Hub’s compact atomic clock oscillators., housed on campus. These oscillators provide the high precision and low signal noise required for the radar to detect small, slow moving objects, such as drones, at longer distances, and even in cluttered environments.

The organisation say that ‘radar detection is a deceptively complex necessity in the modern world, it is required for a surprisingly wide range of sectors’. For example, high precision radar will ensure autonomous vehicles can detect hazards well ahead of time.

Hub academics are also developing next generation distributed radar systems, which will transform surveillance by providing much greater coverage and maintaining real-time situational awareness in highly congested and cluttered environments.

The EPRSC-funded project Mapping and Enabling Future Airspace (MEFA), based at the University of Birmingham, will also benefit hugely from the radar installation.

“MEFA is a three-year interdisciplinary project bringing together radar experts from across the University to study the use of urban airspace. The project will investigate how radar can be used to study the effects of urban developments on migrating birds, and also to differentiate between flying birds and small drones. Data collected during the radar installation will be incredibly beneficial for the MEFA project.”

Professor Chris Baker, Chair in Intelligent Sensor Systems at the University of Birmingham, said:

“By putting in place this highly sophisticated world-leading technology, we and our partners can explore a wide range of advance, novel networked radar surveillance concepts.”

Dr Dominic Walker, Chief Executive Officer of Aveillant, added:

“We are delighted that our Holographic Radars are being used in this programme. At Aveillant we are always looking to push the boundaries of our technology, and working with some of the UK’s leading academic institutions such as the University of Birmingham, is allowing us to do just that.”

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David Price
David Price
6 months ago

Presumably any number of Chinese post graduate students will be there to witness the event and aid the ‘technology transfer’…

Longtime
Longtime
6 months ago
Reply to  David Price

This is us playing catch up in many senses the Chinese started the race towards quantum radars last year when they announced their research and working prototype (can’t be verified), it’s not a race we are leading. Thankfully the majority of the theory of it has already been publish multiple times in scentific journals just the defence industry around the globe took a little while to cotton on by the looks of things.

Gavin Gordon
Gavin Gordon
6 months ago
Reply to  Longtime

I did wonder if the current hoo-ha over chinese graduate placement was more mutually beneficial. On the face of it, although nothing much surprises any longer, the idea that a foreign national from China would be invited to absorb all our knowledge without some reciprocity seems pushing naivety to its limits. The indication or otherwise could come down to whether or not our graduates are similarly embedded at equivalent Chinese universities. Any knowledge on that aspect?

Longtime
Longtime
6 months ago
Reply to  Gavin Gordon

In all honest not much idea of the numbers of foreign students in Chinese institutions at all, what I can say though, is there is a decent number of Brit’s who choose to go to China after graduating to teach in schools and either do post grads there or shortly after their return, that to me would suggest at least a small reciprocal ‘knowledge share’.
My main point is that it seems futile to worry about international students being involved in research that is going to be published in scientific journals.

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
6 months ago
Reply to  Longtime

I suspect it’s far more nuanced than that mind (though I see the researchers as a potential direct threat). As an historical example, the principles of both the axial and centrifugal turbojet were set out in the mid twenties (arguably earlier) but that’s a far cry from detailing the exact methods to develop and achieve true success. Even Griffiths who made practical the axial flow concept we all are familiar with today, (and wrote descriptive papers on it) only ever, back then saw it’s exploitation in the form of a turboprop, believing actual thrust would be quite limited, which held… Read more »

peter wait
6 months ago
Reply to  Longtime

Thought the quantum tech came from Oxford University and was shared with the Chinese lol

Longtime
Longtime
6 months ago
Reply to  peter wait

The theory behind using quantum entanglement as a new radar was published in an open research paper for peer review like 90% of research worldwide (don’t know by which institute) it was shared with the whole world.

Sean
Sean
6 months ago
Reply to  Longtime

Nope.
Aveillant, a Cambridge start up, was first on the market with these 3D holographic radars years ago. They were originally designed for wind farms to track approaching birds, they are that sensitive. But in recent years the radar was used to detect drones flying near airports. This is just the logical extension of that technology.

Last edited 6 months ago by Sean
Steve R
Steve R
6 months ago
Reply to  David Price

I work in a university with plenty of Chinese postgrad students. I can assure you there’s nothing to worry about.

Most, I don’t know how they even dress themselves in the morning! :-p

dan
dan
6 months ago
Reply to  David Price

Of course. Colleges in the West just can’t resist the tuition fees the Chicoms give them. Ugh

George Royce
George Royce
6 months ago
Reply to  dan

Indeed. Cheap Communit Chinese money has put our weak politicians into a trance for decades.

George Royce
George Royce
6 months ago
Reply to  David Price

Exactly. We should stop all Chinese students from attending our universities. This Communist regime is a menace to the world, we don’t want their future generations taking their ideas and tech from us.

TrevorH
TrevorH
6 months ago

Quantum? Holographic?

Nice words to encourage professors to obtain cosy sources of funds?

Watcherzero
Watcherzero
6 months ago
Reply to  TrevorH

It works via Quantum Entaglement. Rather than sending a wave of radio energy you entangle a pair of photons in the microwave band. You send one towards the target and retain the other. You can then observe the reaction of the photon hitting the target in its entangled partner even if the photon sent out doesnt reflect back to a receiver. (Though heisenbug uncertainty principle kicks in and you cant know everything about the retained photon you can through quantity observe a result trend). Through repetition you would eventually end up with a result similar to the picture at the… Read more »

Daveyb
Daveyb
6 months ago
Reply to  Watcherzero

Its all good in theory but impractical in practice (at the moment)! As you say, a quantum radar relies on quantum entanglement, but that’s only half of the story. It should really be called quantum illumination. By using a microwave frequency as the carrier and then modulated using the proton’s frequency. The transmitted “signal” is given a unique waveform. Therefore, for a jammer it will be next to impossible with today’s technology to replicate the quantum signal. The problem of actually making the process into a workable model comes with the second part of the entanglement, i.e. the idler. For… Read more »

Nathan
Nathan
6 months ago
Reply to  Daveyb

Thanks for that. An interesting read.

John Clark
John Clark
6 months ago
Reply to  Daveyb

Blimey davey and Watcherzero, I had read that twice and have lay down in a darkened room before I could absorb all that info!

We do have some very bright contributors!

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
6 months ago
Reply to  Daveyb

That’s a brilliant explanation. Was reading only yesterday that at Cambridge there has been great progress in creating and holding individual photons for a whole range of purposes including transmitted information security. Interesting to see similar principles of entanglement being useful here too.

Crabfat
Crabfat
6 months ago
Reply to  Daveyb

I’m off to bed…

TrevorH
TrevorH
6 months ago
Reply to  Daveyb

Thank you for that. As I say, nice little earners for a few professors.

Sceptical Richard
Sceptical Richard
6 months ago
Reply to  Daveyb

Thank you for that. Very informative. I’m familiar with the concept of ‘tracking the hole’ in the world of passive sonar. Couldn’t a sophisticated repeater jammer be made to ‘fill’ that hole?

Daveyb
Daveyb
6 months ago

Possibly, it is indeed doable against a conventional radar. The jammers used on the F18 Growler have this capability against continuous wave radar, as the waveform is quite simple to replicate. The Rafale’s “active stealth” is supposed to do this as well. The Thales Spectra uses a phased array radar jammer and can operate in a number of modes. It does the normal white noise or spoof jamming. But it can “supposedly” copy a radar signal, invert it and send it back. Theoretically cancelling out the signal. The problem the Rafale has is that when Spectra does this, it can’t… Read more »

Sceptical Richard
Sceptical Richard
6 months ago
Reply to  Daveyb

Yes, I’ve always been more attracted by the concept of an off board jammer, such as Siren or Nulca, or indeed Britecloud than onboard jammers, however sophisticated. Thanks again for your informative posts

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
6 months ago
Reply to  Daveyb

None of this is very new at all. It was set out in an article in Scientific American in the ’80’s, when there was a lot of interest in the use of quantum pairs. Although that article was more about using quantum pair security for fibre optics comms. But it did, as did follow on articles, discuss the broader uses of quantum pairs. The issue, as always with quantum pairs, is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which impacts both on measurement and length of storage. By the time you take the uncertainty and measurement error on both of the pair then… Read more »

md_pepa
md_pepa
6 months ago

What’s gonna fly over Brum that’s Stealthy? Unidentified Flying Oxtails?

Ian M.
Ian M.
6 months ago
Reply to  md_pepa

If the academics took comfort from their research would that be “Solace of Quantum”?

Callum
Callum
6 months ago

Perhaps a first step towards what could form the core of the T4X in 15-20 years

Douglas Newell
Douglas Newell
6 months ago

Lets hope there are no Chinese “students” involved in this project!!

Daveyb
Daveyb
6 months ago

I’m sorry George, but some of the material is incorrect. Today’s “standard” RF radars can already identify what a target is by its shape and using imaging techniques. A standard radar’s ability to determine whether it can track an object or not, but also determine what that object is, is in large part determined by the frequency (wavelength) of the transmitted signal. Basically the lower the frequency (longer wavelength) the more ambiguous the quality of the target’s resolution will be, due to angular dispersion and the wavelength being greater in length than the size of the object. As the frequency… Read more »

Expat alien
Expat alien
6 months ago
Reply to  Daveyb

I was led to believe that HF radar could easily track a stealth aircraft. Could be wrong though

Daveyb
Daveyb
6 months ago
Reply to  Expat alien

No, its not easy. For starters long wave radar are significantly more affected by background noise. If you have listened to a HF radio, you can hear the carrier signal fading in and out, which is due to atmospherics and background noise. A HF radar is no different. This means that the range to the target cannot always be relied upon, especially if you are using an over the horizon radar (OTH) that uses the upper ionosphere as the reflector to bounce the signal. Today’s computers can predict up to a point how a radar signal will interact with the… Read more »

geoff
geoff
6 months ago

Question-could this be a step towards improving the detection of stealth aircraft and if that is the case then it would be of huge significance.

Lordtemplar
Lordtemplar
6 months ago
Reply to  geoff

Yes it can detect “stealth” aircraft. In fact there are many other ways to detect them already, ie infrared, optronics, multistatic, low band frequency etc… the Serbs detected the F117 back in the 1990s (one was shot down, the other was hit but able to make it back to an airfield) and the Iranians were able to detect the RQ170 Sentinel stealth drone in 2011. “Stealth” has always been detectable, and with increased computing power these detection ranges increase. That being said having a low observable radar signature allows you to get closer. So you have to balance low observable… Read more »

geoff
geoff
6 months ago
Reply to  Lordtemplar

Thanks for info Lord. Lockheed Martin basically admitted that the original stealth lable was only partially valid as the design progressed which poses the question-is being partially stealthy really worth much or more to the point, is it a valid feature at all. If a piece of the stucture is observable then it makes the whole aircraft visible.

Lordtemplar
Lordtemplar
6 months ago
Reply to  geoff

As i said it is desireable to have low observability because it reduces the range of detection. ie better to be detected at 50km rather than 200km. The price of low observability unfortunately is more expense to build and maintain, and more importantly on basic flight fundamentals such as maneuvrability, speed, payload etc… so you need to strike the right balance between “stealth” and aerial performance, as you would in Formula 1 between handling and raw speed.

AlexS
AlexS
6 months ago

“Quantum radars could provide users with enough detail to identify aircraft, missiles, and other aerial targets by specific model”

Milimetric wave radars are already capable of this since 80’s. Today does not even need that, SAR and ISAR radars are capable. RAF Poseidon should be capable of it against ships.

George Royce
George Royce
6 months ago

Can this be applied to aircraft or ships?