First in Flight
Since Oliver and Orville Wright were first in flight in 1903, man has seen it as his destiny to take to the skies, to conquer what for many before thought impossible.
Airplanes have come a long way since those salad days in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Now, the aerospace and defense industry (A&D) is worth a record $760 billion in revenue as of 2018. This just goes to show why quantum computing (QC) is now being aligned with that industry.
Quantum research in the space is already being done into how flight physics can be improved. As an active user of advanced computing solutions, Airbus is at the forefront of a paradigm shift in the computing world and exploring how Quantum Computing (QC) can help solve key questions for the aerospace industry. Airbus is taking a step forward by launching a global competition in Quantum Computing and challenging experts in the field to join forces for a Quantum era in aerospace. Airbus has a long history in deploying state-of-the-art High Performing Computing (HPC) solutions for many challenging aerospace problems. With classical computers gradually approaching their limit, the Quantum Computer promises to deliver a new level of computational power.
— From Airbus’ Quantum Computing Challenge FAQ
Quantum Computing Challenge
One of the big two in the industry, the European concern Airbus, has already initiated a scheme, called the ‘Quantum Computing Challenge’, whereby QC experts, academics and startups can propose possible solutions to some of the biggest problems hounding the aerospace industry. The main headaches, five in number, are as follows:
Aircraft Climb Optimization
Computational Fluid Dynamics
Quantum Neural Networks for Solving Partial Differential Equations
Wingbox Design Optimization
Aircraft Loading Optimization
These issues, each with its own specific parameters and innate obstacles that must be overcome, have dumbfounded experts for decades.
With quantum computers proper implementation, it is hoped many of the conundrums thought for so long as unsolvable, won’t be.
Winners of the challenge will gain access to collaborate and work with experts at Airbus in flight physics, harnessing their shared expertise to solve ongoing problems.
‘We’d like this to be the first step for us to engage with experts and enthusiasts in the field…in what we believe will be a quantum era in aerospace.’
— Grazia Vittadini, Airbus chief technology officer
Of the big players and smaller concerns in the QC space that are taking an active part in the aerospace industry, QC-Ware, a Palo Alto startup, seems to be taking the lead. In 2016, Airbus’ venture capital wing, Airbus Ventures, invested an undisclosed amount in the QC startup in an initial Seed Round, followed by more money in a Series A round. More recently, Goldman Sachs Principal Strategic Investments and Citigroup have joined Airbus Ventures with a cash injection of $6.5M in another Series A funding round.
All good for the industry, no doubt.
Whether the investment leads to great things is hard to predict at the moment, but with the aerospace industry growing year on year, the signs look positive.
Not to be outshined, American aerospace giant Boeing, too, has been busy, starting its own version of the Airbus’ challenge by establishing a new organization called Disruptive Computing and Networks, or DC&N for short. The organization, set to be based in California, will — like Airbus — focus on how disruptive technologies such as QC can improve its industry.
Whatever happens, it is obvious the two aerospace titans see a niche in the market they can, by way of the money and influence available to them, exploit for their own benefit.