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Optical Engineering

Large-aperture multiple quantum well modulating retroreflector for free-space optical data transfer on unmanned aerial vehicles
Author(s): G. Charmaine Gilbreath; William S. Rabinovich; Timothy J. Meehan; Michael J. Vilcheck; Rita Mahon; Ray Burris; Mena F. Stell; Ilene Sokolsky; John A. Vasquez; Chris S. Bovais; Kerry Cochrell; Kim C. Goins; Robin Barbehenn; D. Scott Katzer; Kiki Ikossi-Anastasiou; Marcos J. Montes
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Paper Abstract

We describe progress in the development of a multiple quantum well modulating retroreflector, including a description of recent demonstrations of an infrared data link between a small rotary-wing unmanned airborne vehicle and a ground-based laser interrogator using the device designed and fabricated at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). Modulating retroreflector systems couple an optical retroreflector, such as a corner cube, and an electro-optic shutter to allow two-way optical communications using a laser, telescope, and pointer-tracker on only one platform. The NRL modulating retroreflector uses a semiconductor-based multiple quantum well shutter capable of modulation rates greater than 10 Mbps, depending on link characteristics. The technology enables the use of near-infrared frequencies, which is well known to provide covert communications immune to frequency allocation problems. This specific device has the added advantage of being compact, lightweight, covert, and requires very low paper. Up to an order of magnitude in onboard power can be saved using a small array of these devices instead of the radio frequency equivalent. In the described demonstration, a Mbps optical link to an unmanned aerial vehicle in flight at a range of 100 to 200 feet is shown. Near real-time compressed video was also demonstrated at the Mbps level and is described.

Paper Details

Date Published: 1 July 2001
PDF: 9 pages
Opt. Eng. 40(7) doi: 10.1117/1.1383783
Published in: Optical Engineering Volume 40, Issue 7
Show Author Affiliations
G. Charmaine Gilbreath, Naval Research Lab. (United States)
William S. Rabinovich, Naval Research Lab. (United States)
Timothy J. Meehan, Naval Research Lab. (United States)
Michael J. Vilcheck, Naval Research Lab. (United States)
Rita Mahon, Naval Research Lab. (United States)
Ray Burris, Naval Research Lab. (United States)
Mena F. Stell, Naval Research Lab. (United States)
Ilene Sokolsky, Naval Research Lab. (United States)
John A. Vasquez, Naval Research Lab. (United States)
Chris S. Bovais, Naval Research Lab. (United States)
Kerry Cochrell, Naval Research Lab. (United States)
Kim C. Goins, Naval Research Lab. (United States)
Robin Barbehenn, Naval Research Lab. (United States)
D. Scott Katzer, Naval Research Lab. (United States)
Kiki Ikossi-Anastasiou, Naval Research Lab. (United States)
Marcos J. Montes, Naval Research Lab. (United States)


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