The development of a three-beam aerosol backscatter correlation (ABC) light detection and ranging (lidar) to measure wind characteristics for wake vortex and plume tracking applications is discussed. This is a direct detection elastic lidar that uses three laser transceivers, operating at 1030-nm wavelength with
pulse repetition frequency and nanosec class pulse widths, to directly obtain three components of wind velocities. By tracking the motion of aerosol structures along and between three near-parallel laser beams, three-component wind speed profiles along the field-of-view of laser beams are obtained. With three 8-in. transceiver modules, placed in a near-parallel configuration on a two-axis pan–tilt scanner, the lidar measures wind speeds up to 2 km away. Optical flow algorithms have been adapted to obtain the movement of aerosol structures between the beams. Aerosol density fluctuations are cross-correlated between successive scans to obtain the displacements of the aerosol features along the three axes. Using the range resolved elastic backscatter data from each laser beam, which is scanned over the volume of interest, a three-dimensional map of aerosol density can be generated in a short time span. The performance of the ABC wind lidar prototype, validated using sonic anemometer measurements, is discussed.