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Lasercom, also known as free space optical (FSO) communication, has enjoyed a renewal of interest driven by increasing data rate requirements and the crowding of the RF spectrum, affecting both commercial and military sectors. Military communications must also deal with intentional or unintentional jamming, as well as frequency allocation restrictions, neither of which affects lasercom. The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has been conducting research on lasercom since 1998 with an emphasis on tactical applications. NRL's lasercom research has covered propagation studies in the maritime domain, component development, and systems demonstrations. NRL has developed both conventional lasercom systems and retro-reflecting systems for small platforms. This paper reviews some of the retro-reflecting work, discusses applications of lasercom in the areas of explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs), and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and describes future directions.
Date of Publication: June 2012