Overview: In this first chapter we present an introduction/overview of material that is related to the propagation of laser beams through random media like the atmosphere. The intent here is to provide the reader with a broad view of the subject without the distraction of mathematical detail that is required in other chapters of the text. The wavelengths of interest throughout the text are the visible and infrared (IR) portions of the electromagnetic spectrum, although some results can readily be applied to other wavelengths like millimeter waves and, under some conditions, microwaves.
We begin by briefly introducing some of the standard optical wave models like the plane wave, spherical wave, and lowest-order Gaussian-beam wave. Next, we describe the origin of certain atmospheric effects (including meteorological phenomena) associated with propagating optical waves. Some of the traditional application areas are discussed for laser beam propagation - free space optical communications (FSO), laser radar, imaging, and remote sensing - followed by a short historical summary of developmental programs for laser satellite communication systems (lasersatcom) in the United States, Europe, and Japan. In the last section of this chapter we present an overview of the material contained in the remaining chapters, delineating the primary topics to be treated in each individual chapter.
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