It’s called quantum sensing because it uses quantum resources – delicate phenomena that are apparent only on an atom-sized scale – to achieve this extreme accuracy.

How does Quantum Sensing work?

Collecting these “delicate” data at the atomic level often means extracting information from individual atoms instead of from the huge collections of atoms, as happens in classical physics. This allows quantum sensors to make our technological devices exponentially more accurate, more thorough, more efficient, and more productive. Devices that use quantum sensing are also not subject to the same physical constraints as conventional sensors, allowing for exceptional reliability with less vulnerability to the signal jamming and other electromagnetic interference that is increasingly common with today’s light- and sound-based data sensors.

What is Quantum Sensing used for?

Because quantum sensing measures activity in the physical world using atomic properties, the significantly more accurate data it provides can make future versions of technologies that already exist today function better, collecting and using better information to yield better results. Examples of using this in day-to-day life include:

  • Faster, more accurate, more reliable geolocation than is possible with today’s satellite-dependent global positioning system (GPS) devices, with far fewer limitations
  • Providing doctors with more detailed and accurate medical diagnostic images at lower cost and with fewer potential side effects for patients
  • Better, safer autonomous navigation of vehicles on the ground, in the air, and at sea – even in  high traffic areas and around unexpected obstacles
  • More accurate and less vulnerable guidance systems in space, under water, and in the increasing number of zones overwhelmed by radio-frequency (RF) signals
  • Reliable detection, imaging, and mapping of underground environments from transit tunnels, sewers, and water pipes to ancient ruins, mines, and subterranean habitats
  • Deeper, more active sensing of gravitational changes and tectonic shifts that can forewarn or trigger avalanches, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, or climate change activities

How does Quantum Sensing extract data at the atomic level?

Quantum Sensors use what are called “quantum resources” to measure changes in atoms with a higher degree of precision than any traditional measurement strategy can. Quantum resources are physical qualities that don’t exist in classical physics, including entanglement, quantum interference (a.k.a. superposition), discrete states, and coherence. For example, quantum optics typically relies on measurements using various aspects of light, or photons, but quantum sensors can also be made from other mediums, such as atoms in free space and certain solid state devices.

Who uses Quantum Sensing?

Just as GPS, radar, lidar, and other electromagnetic technologies use quantum physics to provide increasingly common tools on city streets, in aircraft, and on even basic cell phones today, Quantum Sensing is in the process now of shifting from being a highly-prized capability few know about to being in daily use everywhere tomorrow. Once it achieves widespread adoption, Quantum Sensing is expected to dramatically improve capabilities for:

  • Aircraft Manufacturers
  • Automobile Manufacturers
  • Border and Immigration Controls
  • Climatology & Weather Forecasting
  • Computer & Electronics Developers
  • Cyber Security
  • Defense & Intelligence Systems
  • Emergency & Disaster Recovery Services
  • Environmental Management
  • Geology and Civil Engineering
  • Government Agencies
  • Health Care / Medicine
  • Insurance
  • Law Enforcement
  • Minerals and Mining
  • State and Municipal Services
  • Shipping
  • Space Exploration
  • Transit Companies
  • Universities
  • Utilities & Power Grid Services
  • and more

While the promise of Quantum Sensing continues to increase, the ability to apply it to solutions that can be implemented ahead of the curve requires development environments that support aggressive innovation. Given the broad appeal of the core technology, it is expected that much progress in the field will continue to be achieved through advantageous partnering to accelerate real world deliverables.


This information page is provided as a service to our readers by BAE Systems, Inc., a U.S.-based world leader in aerospace, defense, power, and intelligence solutions. Learn more about us here.

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