Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have shown that they can solve a small part of a real aviation logistics problem with their small, but well-functioning quantum computer.
All airlines are faced with scheduling problems. For example, assigning individual aircraft to different routes represents an optimisation problem that grows very rapidly in size and complexity as the number of routes and aircraft increases.
One proposed algorithm that is believed to be useful on early quantum computers is the so-called Quantum Approximate Optimization Algorithm (QAOA). The Chalmers research team has now successfully executed this algorithm on their 2-qubit quantum computer and showed that it can successfully solve the problem of assigning aircraft to routes.
In this first demonstration, the result could be easily verified as the scale was very small: it involved only two airplanes.
The researchers were first to show that the QAOA algorithm can solve the problem of assigning aircraft to routes in practice. They also managed to run the algorithm one level further than anyone before, an achievement that requires very good hardware and accurate control.
The theorists in the research team also simulated solving the same optimisation problem for up to 278 aircraft, which would require a quantum computer with 25 qubits.
The paper has been published in Physical Review Applied.
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