Laser imaging offers potential for observation, for 3D
terrain-mapping and classification as well as for target
identification, including behind vegetation, camouflage or glass windows, at day and night, and under all-weather
conditions. First generation systems deliver 3D point clouds. The threshold detection is largely affected by the local
opto-geometric characteristics of the objects, leading to inaccuracies in the distances measured, and by partial
occultation, leading to multiple echos. Second generation systems circumvent these limitations by recording the temporal
waveforms received by the system, so that data processing can improve the telemetry and the point cloud better match
the reality. Future algorithms may exploit the full potential of the 4D full-waveform data. Hence, being able to simulate
point-cloud (3D) and full-waveform (4D) laser imaging is key.
We have developped a numerical model for predicting the output data of 3D or 4D laser imagers. The model does
account for the temporal and transverse characteristics of the laser pulse (i.e. of the "laser bullet") emitted by the system,
its propagation through turbulent and scattering atmosphere, its interaction with the objects present in the field of view,
and the characteristics of the optoelectronic reception path of the system.