In another milestone in indigenous quantum technology, a joint team of scientists from the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, have successfully demonstrated the Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) link between Prayagraj and Vindhyachal in Uttar Pradesh, a distance of over 100 kilometers.
QKD is primarily a mechanism for undertaking secure communication that uses a cryptographic protocol involving various quantum mechanical components. The technology allows two communicating parties to find random secret keys shared by both and known exclusively to them, so that only they can use it to encrypt and decrypt messages, thus realizing a very highly secure communication.
In December 2020, the technology was tested for communication between two DRDO facilities in Hyderabad – the Defense Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) and the Imarat Research Center (RCI) – over a distance of 12 km.
A Department of Defense press release said of the latest test: “This technological breakthrough was achieved on commercial-grade optical fiber already available in the field. Building on this success, the country demonstrated indigenous secure key transfer technology to initiate the hierarchy of military-grade communications security keys. Performance parameters have been measured and found to be repeatedly within reported international standards at dimmed key frequencies up to 10 kHz. This technology will allow security agencies to plan a proper quantum communication network with an indigenous technology backbone.
Secure communications are vital for defense and strategic agencies around the world and the distribution of encryption keys is the crucial factor. Sharing keys over the air or wired requires encryption, which in turn requires the encryption keys to be pre-shared. Quantum-based communication offers a robust solution for sharing keys securely. DRDO has undertaken several projects for the development of this technology.
DRDO scientists said ongoing work on QKD technology within the organization will be used to enable start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises in the field of quantum information technology. The technology is expected to help set standards and formulate policies related to encryption technology that can use the QKD system under a unified framework of the Crypto Policy Committee (CPC) in the country for more “key management” secure for current and future military cryptosystems, senior officials said.
DRDO Chairman Dr. G Satheesh Reddy congratulated the scientists and professors from DRDO and the team at IIT Delhi for the successful demonstration, calling it a shining example of synergistic research between two institutions. The Director of IIT Delhi, Prof. Rangan Banerjee also commended the faculty of IIT Delhi and the scientists of DRDO for the joint effort.