Today, fast, efficient and safe exchange of information globally is considered to be indispensable, but so far full protection against unauthorized access has been something to dream about rather than a reality. This is because even the most sophisticated encryption can be cracked, given enough computing time. A team of scientists from DLR’s VABENE++ project and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU) have now managed to get a little closer to the dream of secure transmission. For the first time they could establish a link to an aerial platform using quantum encryption. Cutting edge quantum encryption systems and aeronautic communication technology provided the foundation for a unique experiment that led to the team’s now being honoured with the Erwin Schrödinger Prize.
This prize is awarded every year alternatively by the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers and the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft, a donors' association promoting the humanities and sciences in Germany. Their respective expertise and close cooperation between LMU experts in quantum cryptography and DLR specialists in the field of free-space optical communication made this success possible. The aerial platform for the experiments was DLR’s Do 228-212 research aircraft. It was linked to a customized laser terminal that the scientists had just used for the first time for optical air-to-ground communication in the VABENE project. With the Erwin Schrödinger Prize the Helmholtz Association distinguishes innovative research in science or technology based on interdisciplinary collaboration.