24 October 2012 Communication system technology for demonstration of BB84 quantum key distribution in optical aircraft downlinks
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Quantum Key Distribution (QKD), either fiber based or free-space, allows for provably secure key distribution solely based on the laws of quantum mechanics. Feasibility of QKD systems in aircraft-ground links was demonstrated with a successful key exchange. Experiment flights were undertaken during night time at the site of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. The aircraft was a Dornier 228 equipped with a laser communication terminal, originally designed for optical data downlinks with intensity modulation and direct detection. The counter terminal on ground was an optical ground station with a 40 cm Cassegrain type receiver telescope. Alice and Bob, as the transmitter and receiver systems usually are called in QKD, were integrated in the flight and ground terminals, respectively. A second laser source with 1550 nm wavelength was used to transmit a 100 MHz signal for synchronization of the two partners. The so called BB84 protocol, here implemented with faint polarization encoded pulses at 850nm wavelength, was applied as key generation scheme. Within two flights, measurements of the QKD and communication channel could be obtained with link distance of 20 km. After link acquisition, the tracking systems in the aircraft and on ground were able to keep lock of the narrow QKD beam. Emphasis of this paper is put on presentation of the link technology, i.e. link design and modifications of the communication terminals. First analysis of link attenuation, performance of the QKD system and scintillation of the sync signal is also addressed.
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Florian Moll, Florian Moll, Sebastian Nauerth, Sebastian Nauerth, Christian Fuchs, Christian Fuchs, Joachim Horwath, Joachim Horwath, Markus Rau, Markus Rau, Harald Weinfurter, Harald Weinfurter, } "Communication system technology for demonstration of BB84 quantum key distribution in optical aircraft downlinks", Proc. SPIE 8517, Laser Communication and Propagation through the Atmosphere and Oceans, 851703 (24 October 2012); doi: 10.1117/12.929739; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.929739

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