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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

U.S. Air Force researchers are partnering with a quantum computing company to use its machine learning algorithms, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Quantum is the next generation of computing, and its growing adoption by the military shows the progress of the technology as it gradually moves out of the lab and into the real world.

Driving the news: Later this morning the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) — its technological development wing — will announce a partnership with the quantum computing software company QC Ware to harness its algorithms to better surveil unmanned aircraft.

  • QC Ware will design and deliver quantum algorithms that are capable of clustering and classifying the flight plans of objects many times faster than the classical machine learning algorithms that are currently used for the job.
  • Using currently available quantum computing hardware, the algorithms will be tested with real-life data, with the aim of determining how many qubits — the basic unit of quantum computing power — are needed for the system to run accurately, as well as the maximum allowable error rate of the calculations.

What they're saying: "The question is, if you have a number of data points, like satellite images or flight paths, can you group them together so that you can assign some sort of meaning to all the signals you have out there?" says Iordanis Kerenidis, head of quantum algorithms at QC Ware.

  • "We think this can be a demonstration of a real quantum advantage."

Details: Part of that advantage is quantum computing's theoretical ability to simulate reality more accurately than its classical counterparts.

  • Real-world experiments like this one will help put that theory to the test, while exploring the outer limits of current quantum computing hardware.

Context: "The Air Force is famous for deploying technologies throughout our history that have really made a difference," says Michael Hayduk, deputy director at the AFRL's information directorate.

  • But with competitors like China investing heavily in quantum computing, he adds, "we really have to take a whole of nation approach to the technology," which includes partnering with private companies like QC Ware.

The bottom line: Even some experts believe there has been more hype than reality to quantum computing so far, which makes real-world experiments like this one all the more necessary.

Go deeper

Congress drags algorithms out of the shadows

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Tech platforms have built the heart of their businesses around secretive computer algorithms, and lawmakers and regulators now want to know just what's inside those black boxes.

Why it matters: Algorithms, formulas for computer-based decision making, are responsible for what we get shown on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube — and, increasingly, for choices companies make about who gets a loan or parole or a spot at a college.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

Death toll mounts as fighting between Israel and Hamas intensifies

Palestinian Muslims exchange wishes for Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, near a razed building in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahia, on May 13. Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

At least 109 Palestinians and seven people in Israel have been killed since recent fighting between Israel's military and Hamas began Monday.

The big picture: Israel began massing troops on its border with Gaza on Thursday, launching attacks from the air and ground as Hamas continued to fire rockets into Israel.

By the numbers: Where the earmarks are wanted

Expand chart
Data: House Committee on Appropriations; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The Dallas-Fort Worth area is being targeted for the largest collective earmark request in the country, according to a detailed breakdown of overall requests released by the House Appropriations Committee.

Why it matters: House appropriators are trying to balance bipartisan momentum for infrastructure investment with "pork-barrel" spending's checkered political history. The data dump is an effort to provide transparency for what are now termed "community project funding" requests.