Hughes Aircraft Electro-Optical and Data Systems Group designed and built two automatic tracking lasercom terminals during the 1983-84 IRAD program. These terminals were intended to serve as proof-of principle prototype hardware to demonstrate the capability of current technology to support aircraft and ship laser communications applications. The low probability of intercept (LPI) and jam-resistant (JR) properties of laser communication systems offer potential advantages over conventional RF communication technologies for some important missions such as aircraft refueling, SAC airborne command post computer data dump and ship-to-ship communications during EMCON conditions. The terminals were first described at MILCOM '84 . Since that time they have been upgraded to include separate apertures for the transmit, receive, and tracking functions, as well as the ability to handle tRZ data at a 19.2 Kbps data rate. These terminals demonstrate that a CCD video camera, gyro-stabilized gimbal and servo electronics can perform precision tracking in support of aircraft laser communication. We believe Hughes testing has shown that video tracking is a legitimate alternative to a previously described quadrant detector approach [2,3].
G. S. Mecherle,
J. D. Barry,
"Laser Communication Terminals With Automatic Video Tracking", Proc. SPIE 0885, Free-Space Laser Communication Technologies, (2 May 1988); doi: 10.1117/12.976560; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.976560