Measurements with high range resolution are needed to identify underwater threats, especially when two-dimensional contrast information is insufficient to extract object details. The challenge is that optical measurements are limited by scattering phenomena induced by the underwater channel. Back-scatter results in transmitted photons being directed back to the receiver before reaching the target of interest which induces a clutter signal for ranging and a reduction in contrast for imaging. Multiple small-angle scattering (forward-scatter) results in transmitted photons being directed to unintended regions of the target of interest (spatial spreading), while also stretching the temporal profile of a short optical pulse (temporal spreading). Spatial and temporal spreading of the optical signal combine to cause a reduction in range resolution in conventional laser imaging systems. NAVAIR has investigated ways in which wide bandwidth, modulated optical signals can be utilized to improve ranging and imaging performance in turbid water environments. Experimental efforts have been conducted to investigate channel effects on the propagated frequency content, as well as different filtering and processing techniques on the return signals to maximize range resolution. Of particular interest for the modulated pulses are coherent detection and processing techniques employed by the radar community, including methods to reduce sidelobe clutter. This paper will summarize NAVAIR’s work and show that wideband optical signals, in combination with the CLEAN algorithm, can indeed provide enhancements to range resolution and 3D imagery in turbid water environments.
A modulated pulse laser imaging system has been developed which utilizes coded/chirped RF modulation to mitigate the adverse effects of optical scattering in degraded visual underwater environments. Current laser imaging techniques employ either short pulses or single frequency modulated pulses to obtain both intensity and range images. Systems using short pulses have high range resolution but are susceptible to scattering due to the wide bandwidth nature of the pulse. Range gating can be used to limit the effects of backscatter, but this can lead to blind spots in the range image. Modulated pulse systems can help suppress the contribution from scattered light in generated imagery without gating the receiver. However, the use of narrowband, single tone modulation results in limited range resolution where small targets are camouflaged within the background. This drives the need for systems which have high range resolution while still suppressing the effects of scattering caused by the environment. Coded/chirped modulated pulses enable the use of radar pulse compression techniques to substantially increase range resolution while also providing a way to discriminate the object of interest from the light scattered from the environment. Linearly frequency chirped waveforms and phase shift keyed barker codes were experimentally investigated to determine the effects that pulse compression would have on intensity/range data. The effect of modulation frequency on the data produced with both wideband and narrowband modulation was also investigated. The results from laboratory experiments will be presented and compared to model predictions.