13 May 2016 A lightweight, rugged, solid state laser radar system enabled by non-mechanical electro-optic beam steerers
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There is currently a good deal of interest in developing laser radar (ladar) for autonomous navigation and collision avoidance in a wide variety of vehicles. In many of these applications, minimizing size, weight and power (SWaP) is of critical importance, particularly onboard aircraft and spacecraft where advanced imaging systems are also needed for location, alignment, and docking. In this paper, we describe the miniaturization of a powerful ladar system based on an electro-optic (EO) beamsteering device in which liquid crystal birefringence is exploited to achieve a 20° x 5° field of view (FOV) with no moving parts. This FOV will be significantly increased in future versions. In addition to scanning, the device is capable of operating in a “point and hold” mode where it locks onto a single moving object. The nonmechanical design leads to exceptionally favorable size and weight values: 1 L and < 1 kg respectively. Furthermore, these EO scanners operate without mechanical resonances or inertial effects. A demonstration was performed with a 50 kHz, 1 microjoule laser with a 2 mm beam diameter to image at a range of 100 m yielding a 2 fps frame rate limited by the pulse laser repetition rate. The fine control provided by the EO steerer results in an angle precision of 6x10-4 degrees. This FOV can be increased with discreet, non-mechanical polarization grating beamsteerers. In this paper, we will present the design, preliminary results, and planned next generation improvements.
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Scott R. Davis, Scott R. Davis, Scott D. Rommel, Scott D. Rommel, Derek Gann, Derek Gann, Ben Luey, Ben Luey, Joseph D. Gamble, Joseph D. Gamble, Michael Ziemkiewicz, Michael Ziemkiewicz, Mike Anderson, Mike Anderson, "A lightweight, rugged, solid state laser radar system enabled by non-mechanical electro-optic beam steerers", Proc. SPIE 9832, Laser Radar Technology and Applications XXI, 98320K (13 May 2016); doi: 10.1117/12.2223272; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2223272

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