Honeywell to design quantum RF and microwave receiver technology for wideband precise sensors

July 26, 2021
Quantum receiving elements will use excited Rydberg atomic states with programmable sensitivity over a large range of frequencies and amplitudes.

ARLINGTON, Va. – U.S. military researchers needed a company to develop a small lightweight wideband radio frequency (RF) receiver with far higher sensitivity than technologies available to day using quantum sensor as the receiving element. They found their solution from Honeywell Aerospace in Phoenix.

Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., announced a $5.5 million contract to Honeywell on Thursday for the Quantum Apertures project.

Quantum sensing uses properties of quantum mechanics, such as quantum entanglement, quantum interference, and quantum state squeezing that have optimized for precision and beat current limits in sensor technology and evade the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.

Honeywell will help develop an RF and microwave receiver that is portable, programmable over a very large frequency range, and more sensitive than what classical systems can achieve at similar sizes and temperatures.

Related: ColdQuanta eyes quantum applications in electronic warfare (EW), sensors, and anti-submarine warfare (ASW)

The quantum-based receiving elements will use excited Rydberg atomic states which have programmable sensitivity over a large range of frequencies and amplitudes.

Ultimately, the receiver system will be composed of a phase-sensitive array, lasers to program the sensor and read out radio signals, and processing electronics.

Honeywell researchers will develop enabling technologies to enable future researchers to capitalize on the receiver’s enhanced capabilities to develop waveforms while also being compatible with constraints imposed by real-world defense applications.

The Quantum Apertures program has two technical areas: one that focuses on the receiver system and its application for military needs; and a focus on the sensor element itself.

Related: Wanted: enabling technologies in atomic vapors for electric field sensing in electronic warfare (EW)

The project will develop Rydberg sensor sensitivity in the 10 MHz to 40 GHz range with sensitivity below 10 to 16 Watts per square meter per Hertz (W·m-2·Hz-1) using a cubic centimeter sensor element. The project also will develop systems and waveforms that use these Rydberg sensors in other military research applications.

The goals are to improve sensor sensitivity in a small sensor; develop a continuous, fast, and broad frequency tuning capability; and develop individually addressable element arrays for detecting signal angle of arrival and channel parallelization for enhanced sensitivity or instantaneous bandwidth.

The project also seeks to expand compatibility to multi-frequency, spread spectrum, and other complex waveforms, including new waveforms that use the capabilities of Rydberg receivers; and to build quantum aperture receivers for future defense applications.

For more information contact Honeywell Aerospace online at, or DARPA at

About the Author

John Keller | Editor-in-Chief

John Keller is the Editor-in-Chief, Military & Aerospace Electronics Magazine--provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronics and optoelectronic technologies in military, space and commercial aviation applications. John has been a member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since 1989 and chief editor since 1995.

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