Novel atmospheric extinction measurement techniques for aerospace laser system applications

Roberto Sabatini, Mark Richardson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Novel techniques for laser beam atmospheric extinction measurements, suitable for manned and unmanned aerospace vehicle applications, are presented in this paper. Extinction measurements are essential to support the engineering development and the operational employment of a variety of aerospace electro-optical sensor systems, allowing calculation of the range performance attainable with such systems in current and likely future applications. Such applications include ranging, weaponry, Earth remote sensing and possible planetary exploration missions performed by satellites and unmanned flight vehicles. Unlike traditional LIDAR methods, the proposed techniques are based on measurements of the laser energy (intensity and spatial distribution) incident on target surfaces of known geometric and reflective characteristics, by means of infrared detectors and/or infrared cameras calibrated for radiance. Various laser sources can be employed with wavelengths from the visible to the far infrared portions of the spectrum, allowing for data correlation and extended sensitivity. Errors affecting measurements performed using the proposed methods are discussed in the paper and algorithms are proposed that allow a direct determination of the atmospheric transmittance and spatial characteristics of the laser spot. These algorithms take into account a variety of linear and non-linear propagation effects. Finally, results are presented relative to some experimental activities performed to validate the proposed techniques. Particularly, data are presented relative to both ground and flight trials performed with laser systems operating in the near infrared (NIR) at λ = 1064 nm and λ = 1550 nm. This includes ground tests performed with 10 Hz and 20 kHz PRF NIR laser systems in a large variety of atmospheric conditions, and flight trials performed with a 10 Hz airborne NIR laser system installed on a TORNADO aircraft, flying up to altitudes of 22,000 ft.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)30-50
Number of pages21
JournalInfrared Physics and Technology
StatePublished - Jan 2013


  • Aerospace electro-optical sensor systems
  • Aerospace laser systems
  • Laser beam propagation
  • Laser extinction measurement


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