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Airbus wants to reinvent aircraft design with quantum computing challenge

Aeronautics giant Airbus today announced that it is creating a global competition to encourage developers to find ways quantum computing can be applied to aircraft design.

Quantum computing is one of many next-generation computing architectures being explored as engineers worry that traditional computing is reaching its physical limits.

Computers today process information using bits, either 0s or 1s, stored in electrical circuits made up of transistors. Quantum computers harness the power of quantum systems, such as atoms that can simultaneously exist in multiple states and can be used as “quantum bits” or “qubits.” These can theoretically handle far more complex calculations.

A wide range of scientific problems needs to be solved before scientists are able to realize the potential of quantum computing. Still, Airbus is hoping to accelerate that timeline with its new initiative. The company notes that it is already exploring the use of quantum computing in areas such as “route optimization and satellite imagery.”

For the Airbus Quantum Computing Challenge, the company wants researchers and developers to find ways the technology could be applied in five areas of aircraft design:

  1. Optimization of aircraft climb
  2. Optimization of wing-box design
  3. Computational Fluid Dynamics (which determines aerodynamics of the plane)
  4. Partial Differential Equations (also impacts aerodynamics)
  5. Aircraft loading optimization

The company is inviting anyone from post-graduate students to academics to entrepreneurs to submit proposals through October 2019. Airbus will then select winners, who will be given access to the computing hardware that would allow them to develop their ideas in partnership with the company.

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