Image of QKD system
The QKD system, mounted on the underbelly of a Twin Otter research aircraft, searches for particular optical communication frequencies for use on unmanned aircraft. (Credit: NASA/Jef Janis)

The increase in unmanned aircraft (UA) traffic is leading to an increase in communications disruptions because too many vehicles are trying to use the same limited number of frequencies.

A laser communication device being tested by NASA forms the foundation to a quantum key distribution (QKD) system for use on UA. The hardware attached to a Twin Otter research aircraft has performed successfully in aircraft flight tests.