A former World War Two RAF base is set to be converted into a new state-of-the-art hub in the fight against cyber attacks.
The satellite ground station at the Errol Aerodrome will be protected by a “robotic dome cover” after being selected as the test facility for quantum secure communications as part of a new project involving a leading Scottish university.
Researchers hope to use satellite technology to transmit information in a secure manner without being hamstrung by the limited signal distance offered by traditional fibre links.
The highly encrypted data can be sent via space communications without being intercepted, bypassing the threat of hackers.
The joint-venture between Heriot Watt University and Dundee Satellite Station could be used by a host of partner institutions across the UK once fully operational.
The university’s Dr Ross Donaldson, who led the site proposal, said: “Heriot-Watt University has world leading expertise in quantum communications and the enabling technologies behind it.
“The addition of of the hub’s optical ground station will place Heriot-Watt University at the forefront of satellite quantum communications research, enabling engagement with future missions from national and international teams.”
The ground station uses a reflective 70cm telescope, to track low-Earth orbit satellites with high precision.
Both the ground receiver and the orbital systems employ laser beacons to accurately point towards each other, but only begin transmitting information when precisely aligned.
It is hoped that can protect against cyber attacks seeking to hijack information before it reaches its intended recipient.
The base was decommissioned from military use in 1948 and has since been used as the headquarters for a haulage company and an auctioning plant.
Many of the buildings constructed for use during the war have since fallen into a state of disrepair, while only one strip of airfield is in use.
Dundee Satellite Station’s technical director, Dr Paul Crawford, said: “Dundee is a unique ground station in that we developed and operated in an academic environment for over 40 years and actually designed and built our own systems, so we are natural partners for any R&D focused projects such as this.”
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