Laser-based remote sensing is undergoing a remarkable advance due to novel technologies developed at MIT
Lincoln Laboratory. We have conducted recent experiments that have demonstrated the utility of detecting and
imaging low-density aerosol clouds. The Mobile Active Imaging LIDAR (MAIL) system uses a Lincoln
Laboratory-developed microchip laser to transmit short pulses at 14-16 kHz Pulse Repetition Frequency (PRF), and
a Lincoln Laboratory-developed 32x32 Geiger-mode Avalanche-Photodiode Detector (GmAPD) array for singlephoton
counting and ranging. The microchip laser is a frequency-doubled passively Q-Switched Nd:YAG laser
providing an average transmitted power of less than 64 milli-Watts. When the avalanche photo-diodes are operated
in the Geiger-mode, they are reverse-biased above the breakdown voltage for a time that corresponds to the effective
range-gate or range-window of interest. The time-of-flight, and therefore range, is determined from the measured
laser transmit time and the digital time value from each pixel. The optical intensity of the received pulse is not
measured because the GmAPD is saturated by the electron avalanche. Instead, the reflectivity of the scene, or
relative density of aerosols in this case, is determined from the temporally and/or spatially analyzed detection
Jigsaw three-dimensional (3D) imaging laser radar is a compact, light-weight system for imaging
highly obscured targets through dense foliage semi-autonomously from an unmanned aircraft. The
Jigsaw system uses a gimbaled sensor operating in a spot light mode to laser illuminate a cued
target, and autonomously capture and produce the 3D image of hidden targets under trees at high 3D
voxel resolution. With our MIT Lincoln Laboratory team members, the sensor system has been
integrated into a geo-referenced 12-inch gimbal, and used in airborne data collections from a UH-1
manned helicopter, which served as a surrogate platform for the purpose of data collection and
system validation. In this paper, we discuss the results from the ground integration and testing of the
system, and the results from UH-1 flight data collections. We also discuss the performance results
of the system obtained using ladar calibration targets.
Lincoln Laboratory has developed 32×32-pixel ladar focal planes comprising silicon Geiger-mode avalanche photodiodes and high-speed all-digital CMOS timing circuitry in each pixel. In Geiger-mode operation, the APD can detect as little as a single photon, producing a digital CMOS-compatible voltage pulse. This pulse is used to stop a high-speed counter in the pixel circuit, thus digitizing the time of arrival of the optical pulse. This "photon-to-digital conversion" simultaneously achieves single-photon sensitivity and 0.25-ns timing precision. We discuss the development of these focal planes and present imagery from ladar systems that use them.
Situation awareness and accurate Target Identification (TID) are critical requirements for successful battle management. Ground vehicles can be detected, tracked, and in some cases imaged using airborne or space-borne microwave radar. Obscurants such as camouflage net and/or tree canopy foliage can degrade the performance of such radars. Foliage can be penetrated with long wavelength microwave radar, but generally at the expense of imaging resolution. The goals of the DARPA Jigsaw program include the development and demonstration of high-resolution 3-D imaging laser radar (ladar) ensor technology and systems that can be used from airborne platforms to image and identify military ground vehicles that may be hiding under camouflage or foliage such as tree canopy. With DARPA support, MIT Lincoln Laboratory has developed a rugged and compact 3-D imaging ladar system that has successfully demonstrated the feasibility and utility of this application. The sensor system has been integrated into a UH-1 helicopter for winter and summer flight campaigns. The sensor operates day or night and produces high-resolution 3-D spatial images using short laser pulses and a focal plane array of Geiger-mode avalanche photo-diode (APD) detectors with independent digital time-of-flight counting circuits at each pixel. The sensor technology includes Lincoln Laboratory developments of the microchip laser and novel focal plane arrays. The microchip laser is a passively Q-switched solid-state frequency-doubled Nd:YAG laser transmitting short laser pulses (300 ps FWHM) at 16 kilohertz pulse rate and at 532 nm wavelength. The single photon detection efficiency has been measured to be > 20 % using these 32x32 Silicon Geiger-mode APDs at room temperature. The APD saturates while providing a gain of typically > 106. The pulse out of the detector is used to stop a 500 MHz digital clock register integrated within the focal-plane array at each pixel. Using the detector in this binary response mode simplifies the signal processing by eliminating the need for analog-to-digital converters and non-linearity corrections. With appropriate optics, the 32x32 array of digital time values represents a 3-D spatial image frame of the scene. Successive image frames illuminated with the multi-kilohertz pulse repetition rate laser are accumulated into range histograms to provide 3-D volume and intensity information. In this article, we describe the Jigsaw program goals, our demonstration sensor system, the data collection campaigns, and show examples of 3-D imaging with foliage and camouflage penetration. Other applications for this 3-D imaging direct-detection ladar technology include robotic vision, avigation of autonomous vehicles, manufacturing quality control, industrial security, and topography.
We present a pose-independent Automatic Target Detection and Recognition (ATD/R) System using data from an airborne 3D imaging ladar sensor. The ATD/R system uses geometric shape and size signatures from target models to detect and recognize targets under heavy canopy and camouflage cover in extended terrain scenes.
A method for data integration was developed to register multiple scene views to obtain a more complete 3-D surface signature of a target. Automatic target detection was performed using the general approach of “3-D cueing,” which determines and ranks regions of interest within a large-scale scene based on the likelihood that they contain the respective target. Each region of interest is further analyzed to accurately identify the target from among a library of 10 candidate target objects.
The system performance was demonstrated on five extended terrain scenes with targets both out in the open and under heavy canopy cover, where the target occupied 1 to 5% of the scene by volume. Automatic target recognition was successfully demonstrated for 20 measured data scenes including ground vehicle targets both out in the open and under heavy canopy and/or camouflage cover, where the target occupied between 5 to 10% of the scene by volume. Correct target identification was also demonstrated for targets with multiple movable parts that are in arbitrary orientations. We achieved a high recognition rate (over 99%) along with a low false alarm rate (less than 0.01%)
Recently-developed airborne imaging laser radar systems are capable of rapidly collecting accurate and precise spatial information for topographic characterization as well as surface imaging. However, the performance of airborne ladar (laser detection and ranging) collection systems often depends upon the density and distribution of tree canopy over the area of interest, which obscures the ground and objects close to the ground such as buildings or vehicles. Traditionally, estimates of canopy obscuration are made using ground-based methods, which are time-consuming, valid only for a small area and specific collection geometries when collecting data from an airborne platform. Since ladar systems are capable of collecting a spatially and temporally dense set of returns in 3D space, the return reflections can be used to differentiate and monitor the density of ground and tree canopy returns in order to measure, in near real-time, sensor performance for any arbitrary collection geometry or foliage density without relying on ground based measurements. Additionally, an agile airborne ladar collection system could utilize prior estimates of the degree and spatial distribution of the tree canopy for a given area in order to determine optimal geometries for future collections. In this paper, we report on methods to rapidly quantify the magnitude and distribution of the spatial structure of obscuring canopy for a series of airborne high-resolution imaging ladar collections in a mature, mixed deciduous forest.
Lincoln Laboratory has developed 32 x 32-pixel ladar focal planes comprising silicon geiger-mode avalanche photodiodes and high-speed all-digital CMOS timing circuitry in each pixel. In Geiger mode operation, the APD can detect as little as a single photon, producing a digital CMOS-compatible voltage pulse. This pulse is used to stop a high-speed counter in the pixel circuit, thus digitizing the time of arrival of the optical pulse. This "photon-to-digital conversion" simultaneously achieves single-photon sensitivity and 0.5-ns timing. We discuss the development of these focal planes and present imagery from ladar systems that use them.
MIT Lincoln Laboratory continues the development of novel high-resolution 3D imaging laser radar technology and sensor systems. The sensor system described in detail here uses a passively Q-switched solid-state frequency-doubled Nd:YAG laser to transmit short laser pulses (~ 700 ps FWHM) at 532 nm wavelength and derive the range
to target surface element by measuring the time-of-flight for each pixel. The single photoelectron detection efficiency has been measured to be > 20 % using these Silicon Geiger-mode APDs at room temperature. The pulse out of the detector is used to stop a > 500 MHz digital clock integrated within the focal-plane array. With
appropriate optics, the 32x32 array of digital time values represents a 3D spatial image frame of the scene. Successive image frames from the multi-kilohertz pulse repetition rate laser pulses are accumulated into range histograms to provide 3D volume and intensity information.
In this paper, we report on a prototype sensor system, which has recently been developed using new 32x32
arrays of Geiger-mode APDs with 0.35 μm CMOS digital timing circuits at each pixel. Here we describe the
sensor system development and present recent measurements of laboratory test data and field imagery.
MIT Lincoln Laboratory is actively developing laser and detector technologies that make it possible to build a 3D laser radar with several attractive features, including capture of an entire 3D image on a single laser pulse, tens of thousands of pixels, few-centimeter range resolution, and small size, weight, and power requirements. The laser technology is base don diode-pumped solid-state microchip lasers that are passively Q-switched. The detector technology is based on Lincoln-built arrays of avalanche photodiodes operating in the Geiger mode, with integrated timing circuitry for each pixel. The advantage of these technologies is that they offer the potential for small, compact, rugged, high-performance systems which are critical for many applications.
NAST-1 is a Fourier transform interferometric sounder that provides very high spectral and spatial resolution measurements of the Earth's atmosphere. The interferometer provides two dimensional, low noise data from the NASA ER-2 aircraft suitable for synthesizing data products of future satellite-borne sounding instrument candidates. It is the first such high altitude aircraft or satellite borne instrument. The instrument provides a 2.6 km nadir footprint and a cross-track field of regard of +/- 48.2 degrees. The instrument has a continuous spectral range of 3.6-16.1 micrometers , spectral resolution of 0.25 cm<SUP>-1</SUP>, and radiometric noise on the order of 0.25 K. NAST-1 has proven to be an extremely reliable instrument generating over 100 hours of high-quality flight data, and was delivered to the sponsor on a very tight schedule. Using a first principles model, the noise performance of the instrument was modeled and found to be in close agreement with noise measured in- flight. Alignment jitter has been identified as the major contributor to the system NEdN. This paper describes the mode used to predict the instrument noise performance and discusses the comparison to actual flight data.