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Manually-Actuated Laser Intersite Communications Equipment (MALICE)

Description:

TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Sensors 

OBJECTIVE: Provide tactical, very low SWAP (size, weight, and power), low probability of detection/intercept free-space optical (FSO) communications for the warfighter. 

DESCRIPTION: Free-space communications in the optical/infrared (IR) spectrum offer much higher bandwidths for higher-density/higher-throughput communications than traditional radio frequency (RF) communications. Their potentially small size and very narrow beam operation via small apertures also provides for a degree of covertness not possible with traditional RF hardware at the same functional level. Operation in the IR portion of the spectrum at wavelengths greater than 1.4 microns also enables high throughput at reasonable transmit powers while still maintaining essential eye safety to the user. Common eye-safe atmospheric propagation windows exist at around 1.5 to 2 microns in the SWIR (short wave IR) and from about 4 to 5 microns and 8 to 12 microns in the MWIR (midwave IR) and LWIR (long wave IR) portions of the spectrum. Existing and emerging component technologies are enabling the development of near-term deployable hardware utilizing these wavelengths of operation. This topic is seeking innovative solutions for tactical covert operations and short distance air-to-air or air-to-ground use, to be employed in moving moderate to massive amounts of data (including video) when line-of-sight (LOS) is possible. Current technologies and fielded hardware are typically large gimballed systems that are not adaptable to tactical field use or low profile incorporation into smaller platforms. An immediate requirement exists for a very low SWAP, extremely covert, and user friendly high data rate communications capability for use in contested environments. Legacy RF hardware and currently fielded laser communications systems do not offer an adequate solution. The goal of this effort is to provide this enabling technology to the tactical warfighter. Potential value, besides the ability to operate covertly, may include automatic control of non-piloted aircraft, operating in conjunction with a laser range finder for targets not in the direct path (LOS) of the delivery aircraft, and field telecommunications between units or between ground/maritime elements and air vehicles. This effort should also consider hardware ease of use, environmental enclosure, information throughput, and availability (ie operation through less than ideal atmospheric conditions) in the following analysis and development tasks. 

PHASE I: Investigate potential applications (ie. FSO communications for the combat controller/JTAC (joint tactical air control), point-to-point connectivity among proximate nodes, between flight elements of formation, and other tactical scenarios), along with their corresponding optical communications system hardware design and performance requirements. Provide one or more system designs for a core optical (eyesafe IR laser) transceiver unit that could either be used in a stand-alone mode, or integrated into a system to address a broad range of the above applications. Design focus should be on a very low SWAP package with automatic link acquisition and tracking over a minimum plus or minus 20 to 30 degree cone. This assumes that the hardware will either be hand-held (using coarse manual tracking), manually pointed in a fixed position (coarse manual pointing with possible platform motion or vibration that doesn’t exceed the limits of the automatic tracking function), or mounted on a separately controlled gimbal which further provides a fully hemispherical range of coarse pointing. The Phase I product is expected to be a functional design based on actual off-the-shelf component hardware as well as a complete specification for system elements that need to be built on a custom basis. It should fully address specific physical and technical performance measures, as well as packaging and user interface details. Target SWAP goals are package volume less than .3 cubic feet, weight less than 5 lbs, and battery operation with less than 100W total power consumption. 

PHASE II: Conduct a final technology and requirements evaluation to select an optimum design approach from Phase I. Complete detailed hardware design, and fabricate one or more system prototypes. Conduct a demonstration of the hardware via at least one point-to-point full-duplex link under field conditions. Collect data and report on performance and availability measures. 

PHASE III: Continue to develop additional applications and transition of the hardware to operational use. 

REFERENCES: 

1: S. Okada, T. Yendo, T. Yamazato, T. Fujii, M. Tanimoto, and Y. Kimura, "On-vehicle receiver for distant visible light road-to-vehicle communication," IEEE Intelligent Vehicles Symposium, 1033–1038 (2009).

2:  Optical Communications, Robert Gagliardi, Sherman Karp, John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 1995.

3:  3. Wen-Yi Lin, Chia-Yi Chen, Hai-Han Lu, Ching-Hung Chang, Ying-Pyng Lin, Huang-Chang Lin, and Hsiao-Wen Wu, "10m/ 500Mbps WDM visible light communication systems," 2012 Optical Society of America, OCIS 060.2605, 16-Apr-2012

4:  Free-Space Optics Propagation and Communication, Olivier Bouchet, Herve Sizun, Christian Boisrobert, Frederique de Fornel, Pierre-Noel Favennec, ISTE USA, Newport Beach, CA.

KEYWORDS: Nanometer, Nm, FSO, Free Space Optical, Laser, Lasercomm, Eye Safe, Tactical Communications 

CONTACT(S): 

David Legare 

(315) 330-7135 

david.legare@us.af.mil 

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