PROPOSAL NUMBER:17-2 S1.01-8897
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Lidar Remote Sensing Technologies
PROPOSAL TITLE: Autonomous Alignment Advancements for Eye-Safe Coherent Lidar

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN: (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/ZIP, Phone)
Beyond Photonics, LLC
6205 Lookout Road, Suite B
Lafayette, CO
(303) 475-2088

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER: (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/ZIP, Phone)
Sammy Henderson
6205 Lookout Road, Ste. B
Boulder,  CO 80301-3334
(303) 396-8536

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 3
End: 4

<p>In this Phase II effort we propose to advance the development of autonomous alignment technology allowing improved performance and reliability from coherent lidar systems and demonstrate the technologies in a working coherent lidar system.&nbsp; Eye-safe coherent lidar technology holds great promise of meeting NASA&#39;s demanding remote 3D space winds goal near term. &nbsp;Highly autonomous, long-range coherent lidar systems may however suffer significant signal loss due to environment-induced component misalignment, as well as varying receiver lag-angle alignment errors in space-based platform applications.&nbsp; Although such systems can be engineered with the required alignment stability, the overall size, mass, and cost to produce coherent lidar systems will benefit from incorporating technology into the design that allows alignment to be optimized automatically while the system is in the field.&nbsp; Autonomous space- and air-borne lidar systems will especially benefit, where maintaining peak performance is critical without regular human intervention.&nbsp; Auto-alignment technologies will result in lower-cost lidar sensors with greater autonomy and less-exotic opto-mechanics, spurring strong commercial potential due to the rapid introduction of lidar systems into the commercial marketplace for various applications.&nbsp; The technology aimed at maintaining laser and lidar alignment also has potential to correct for receiver lag angle in fast-scanning long-range lidar systems, which will facilitate faster scan rates, larger apertures, and greater area coverage rate capability.&nbsp; Beyond Photonics has a strong interest in solving these technological problems for relevant ground-based, airborne, and space-based unattended lidar systems.&nbsp; This Phase II effort will further mature auto-alignment designs exhibiting a high level of synergy between NASA&#39;s and other commercial vendors&rsquo; requirements for laser auto-alignment, transmit/receive transceiver auto-alignment, and receiver lag angle compensation.</p>

Potential non-NASA, commercial applications for the lower-cost, higher reliability autonomous coherent laser radar sensors that would be realized from the proposed Phase II work include, use of such systems in wind energy management and site location applications; at airports for detection of hazardous aircraft wake vortices and wind shear, increasing airport operating efficiency; hard-target sensing, identification, and imaging applications. Future very-compact and low-cost implementations of auto-alignment capability has potential for application in compact lidar systems for autonomous air and ground vehicle obstacle avoidance and navigation. Auto-alignment functionality will find many commercial and industrial research applications wherever two or more beams need to be aligned to each other, such as is often required in non-linear optics, IR spectroscopy and coherent sensing applications (e.g. FT-IR spectroscopy; OCT imaging technology), coherent lasers beam combination for power scaling, coherent communications, and single-mode fiber beam combination and management.

Potential NASA applications for the lower-cost, higher-reliability autonomous laser and lidar alignment technology described in this Phase II proposal include current and upcoming programs like NASA LaRC's WIND-SP; the existing NASA LaRC DAWN lidar system (which currently suffers from thermally-induced environmental system misalignment that would readily be addressed by this technology with very low impact on existing architecture); and future generations of this wind measurement lidar system, particularly, space-based instruments with poor or impractical access for on-site system maintenance. The technology can be easily extended to other wavelengths (e.g. 1.55-1.6 um), which could directly benefit NASA programs aimed at atmospheric CO2 or CH4 measurement using lidar systems and other laser remote sensing efforts where long-duration unattended operation is key. Space-based applications are of particular interest.

Lasers (Ladar/Lidar)
Optical/Photonic (see also Photonics)
Autonomous Control (see also Control & Monitoring)
Process Monitoring & Control