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Asynchronous Active 3D Imaging


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Air Platform, Sensors, Electronics, Space Platforms 

OBJECTIVE: Assess feasibility, outline imaging assumptions, and develop the concept of operations for a decoupled, asynchronous active 3D laser imaging system. 

DESCRIPTION: Traditional active 3D imaging systems, such as airborne and terrestrial lidar scanners, use a transmitter and receiver typically co-located on the same platform and connected in synchronous communications. However, recent advances in laser, detector, and airborne systems technology have opened the door to smaller, higher performance, and significantly lower cost alternatives to the exquisite airborne lidar systems of yesterday. The current effort seeks to disrupt the existing paradigm by allowing bi-static system designs and concept of operations (CONOPS) that would allow one or more laser transmitters and receivers to be disconnected and operating independently of each other while providing high resolution 3D image capture. Additional capabilities intrinsic to active sensing or implied by this distributed system layout are encouraged. By relaxing the physical coupling and communication constraints on conventional active imaging systems, this project seeks to establish a better understanding of how the in-situ cooperation of independently mobile, discrete active imaging components may allow for the development of revolutionary active imaging system architectures. In addition to reduced system SWaP and high resolution 3D image capture, potential advantages of such systems include increased per pulse detection efficiency, broadened capabilities through transmitter/detector diversity, and improved survivability. 

PHASE I: Overall System Design Development with Numerical Modeling and Simulation: This phase will determine the best approach for and assess the feasibility of a decoupled, asynchronous active 3D imaging system comprised of one or more independently mobile laser transmitters and receivers. The effort must clearly address the rationale behind the selected system design(s), and will explicitly: Task 1 – Define the scope of the proposed system and investigate suitable experimental design(s). Task 2 – Perform numerical modeling and simulation of proposed system(s), with anticipated performance, cost, and SWaP improvements and limitations relative to traditional system architectures. Task 3 – Outline an experimental validation approach, design, and cost, to be included within the Phase 1 Final Report. 

PHASE II: Experimental Validation: Phase II will develop, demonstrate and validate the Phase I experimental concept, and will consist of: Task 1 – Equipment procurement, setup, and configuration. Task 2 – Experimental testing and verification of Phase I numerical modeling and assumptions. Task 3 –Technical Report as a deliverable, summarizing theoretical background, proposed system design with numerical modeling/simulation, experimental results and conclusions.  

PHASE III: This research has significant applicability to other commercial and military active imaging techniques and applications, including improved lidar foliage penetration performance, swarm imaging and navigation, improvement to ground-based lidar survey collection and processing, and autonomous vehicle navigation. 


1: Crouch, S., et al., "Three dimensional digital holographic aperture synthesis," Opt. Express 23 (2015).

2:  Rabb, D.J., et al., "Multi-transmitter aperture synthesis," Opt. Express 18 (2010).

3:  McManamon, P.F., "Review of ladar: a historic, yet emerging, sensor technology with rich phenomenology," Opt. Eng., 51 (2012).

KEYWORDS: Ladar, Active Imaging, Hyperspectral, Synthetic Aperture, Holographic, FMCW 


Jacob Graul 

(571) 558-2495 

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