Israel’s largest aerospace company has announced a new program for assisting startups, some of which develop up-and-coming quantum technology.

Elta systems, a division of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), is teaming up with the Boston-based MassChallenge startup accelerator, which will assist startups developing an array of sensors and quantum-based technology. MassChallenge also maintains a headquarters in Jerusalem.

“Our collaboration with IAI is growing closer, providing MassChallenge with a strategic partner for creating a high-quality infrastructure for startups that seek to transform their innovation into trailblazing products for the global market,” Yonit Serkin, managing director of MassChallenge Israel, said in a statement.

Israel Lupa, executive vice president and chief technological officer of Elta, told JNS that his company has been cooperating with the accelerator for a third consecutive year. Elta mentors select startups and go on to accompany some in their development process.

This year’s program will seek out startups that develop high-frequency sensors, quantum computing and other systems—some of which could be integrated with Elta’s own airborne intelligence, cyber, ground, air-defense and space systems.

“This year is unique since we set the topic: future sensing technology,” said Lupa. “This is a part of Elta’s area of activity. It is about any kind of sensing technology—optical, thermal or magnetic. Dozens of startups have signed up. Most are from Israel, but some are from Europe, Asia and South America,” he noted.

The cooperation will see Elta help startups develop, meet with investors, receive assistance with marketing and sales, and receive tips on how to reach target audiences.

Quantum technology covers several fields, including computing, communications and radars—all of which have functions in the military and civilian worlds. “We are active in all of these areas,” said Lupa.

Elta is a member of the Israeli quantum consortium, established in 2019 and involving universities, the Israel Institute of Technology and private corporations. The consortium promotes the development of quantum magnetics and clocks, which provide more effective results in products such as sensors.

A quantum-based communications system is significantly more immune to enemy eavesdropping, Lupa said, while a quantum-based radar can detect targets far more sensitively.

“What enables these capabilities is the way we gather information from basic particles like photons. We can pair photons. If we send one to a certain location and hold on to the other, we can know whether the photon we sent arrived or whether it was replaced by someone,” explained Lupa, referring to a quantum-based communications system.

A quantum radar would still send out radio-wave beams, but these would be made up of single photons and could detect the return of such photons, he added.

Quantum computing, for its parts, replaces the traditional 1 and 0 computer binary system with a system that calculates the chances of 1 and 0—meaning that it could have both 1 and 0 at the same time, but with different probabilities. “This enables the computing of certain aspects far faster and in a more efficient manner. The computing time could be 1,000 or 10,000 times faster,” said Lupa. When combined with artificial intelligence, machines could learn on their own with the speed of quantum computing, he stated.

At the moment, only massive quantum computers exist, while quantum communications are still at the proof of concept stage. Quantum radars have made some progress. But all of this is expected to change.

“In the end, it will be a revolution,” said Lupa. “But it will not happen tomorrow. When these things become accessible to everyone, then it will be revolutionary.”

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