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Free Space Optical Communication for Ocean Surface Transceivers


OBJECTIVE: Provide innovative concepts leading to the development of a Lasercom (Free-space optical (FSO) communication) system for use in Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Operations. DESCRIPTION: Lasercom, also known as free-space optical (FSO) communication, has emerged in recent years as an attractive alternative to conventional RF communication [1, 2, 3]. This is due to the increasing maturity of lasers and compact optical systems as well as unique advantages of Lasercom. Setup is relatively low-cost, with no licensing or frequency allocation requirements. Lasercom's primary advantages for military applications are covertness, lack of Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) from any RF sources (radars or communication systems), immunity to jamming, lack of frequency allocation requirements (allowing operation in all national and international waters), and high bandwidth. Lasercom inherently has a low probability of interception and detection (LPI/LPD). The successful demonstration of FSO links for ASW operations will enable diversified communication paths that will allow operations in situations where RF sources are inoperable due to multiple possible causes RF interferences, jamming, spectrum allocations issues, lack of host nation approval. Lasercom system will consist in the implementation of a bi-directional free-space point-to-point optical link utilizing invisible beams of light to send and receive voice, video, and data information between two transceivers within line-of-sight transmission. FSO technology is based on the connectivity between FSO-based optical wireless units, each consisting of an optical transceiver to provide full-duplex (bi-directional) capability. The Lasercom system plan of integration consists of a low-cost solution, small size factor, low power consumption, and minimum hardware impact to both transceivers. For this application, acoustic data will be transmitted to the aircraft platform using the Lasercom uplink, while commands will be sent to the ocean surface transceiver via the Lasercom downlink. Given the ever-present need for secure communication, the increasing need for higher bandwidth, and the decreasing available RF spectrum , it seems to be the question of when, not if, free-space optical links will be used for many military applications. PHASE I: Develop an initial conceptual design for the full-duplex Free-space Optical Communication Link. Perform a design modeling in order to provide a conceptual design trade study for the proposed Lasercom Link. Identify small-size factor, low-cost and power consumption and minimum hardware impact to the ocean surface transceiver solution. PHASE II: Refine and modify the Lasercom link design developed in Phase I. Develop, construct and demonstrate the operation of the prototype Lasercom link selected in Phase I. Perform a laboratory based proof of concept demonstration for the Lasercom link selected in Phase I. PHASE III: Optimize the Lasercom link design based on the test and evaluation results of Phase II. Demonstrate full system performance and conduct sea tests in areas of interest. PRIVATE SECTOR COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL/DUAL-USE APPLICATIONS: Free-space optical communication links will provide a diversified communication path for ASW operations where RF sources are inoperable due to RFI, jamming and spectrum allocation issues. Lasercom link will benefit the U.S. DON by providing a secure communication path between ocean surface transceivers and air platforms transceivers in RF inoperable areas.
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