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Long-range (Space-based/Aircraft) Laser Radar

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Overview of laser radar and supporting technologies, including laser transmitters (lasers), direct (analog) and photon-counting receivers, and active optical (bistatic) alignment subsystems. Two major applications are addressed: high-fidelity altimetry and target tracking & identification.


Technical Training Short On Site Course Quote

This 2-day course addresses Laser Radar design for long-range, compact laser radars for space and/or aircraft applications. The topics covered in detailed include altimetry employing spaceborne and airborne platforms, as well as use of a target identification & classification system for aircraft use. This course will introduce and review fundamental equations of performance (Pd, FAR) and performance modeling. Chapters address how to develop and allocate laser radar requirements along with how to conduct and track system-to-subsystem requirements flowdown. Additional chapters will provide insight to comprehensive and functional testing and verification of laser radar performance, including processing needed for: zero-range point determination, time-of-flight precision, and GPS (UTC) time offset evaluation. Elements of the course apply to all laser radars, but the advanced topics will focus on the application of altimetry and target identification/classification in particular using a direct detection and coherent laser radar, respectively. This two-day short course reviews the underlying technology areas used to construct and operate space-based laser altimeters and laser radar systems. The course presents background information to allow an appreciation for designing and evaluating space-based laser radars. Fundamental descriptions are given for direct-detection and coherent-detection laser radar systems, and, details associated with space applications are presented. System requirements are developed and methodology of system component selection is given. Performance evaluation criteria are developed based on system requirements. Design considerations for space-based laser radars are discussed and case studies describing previous and current space instrumentation are presented. In particular, the development, test, and operation of the NEAR Laser Radar is discussed in detailed to illustrate design decisions.

Emerging technologies pushing next-generation laser altimeters are discussed, the use of lasers in BMD and TMD architectures are summarized, and additional topics addressing laser radar target identification and tracking aspects are provided. Fundamentals associated with lasers and optics are not covered in this course, a generalized level of understanding is assumed.


Timothy D. Cole is currently the ICESAT-2 Calibration Scientist for the ATLAS laser altimeter, charged to measure worldwide ice thickness/flow measurements to the sub-centimeter level. Mr. Cole has worked as the lead instrument engineer (ISE) for the ATLAS laser altimeter, as well as, being a member of the science team, defining all prelaunch calibrations required of the ATLAS instrument. Mr. Cole was formerly president of a leading edge consulting firm that specialized in tactical sensors, sensor architectures, & data exfiltration solutions employing wireless sensor nets (WSN). Mr. Cole was the designer and developer for the NASA Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) laser altimeter (NLR), which orbited 433 Eros for a year acquiring critical and unique data about the geodynamical structure then subsequently landed on the asteroid in 2002. He also designed and developed the Ku-band altimetry data processing facility for the GEOSAT-1 altimeter. Mr. Cole holds degrees in Electrical Engineering (BES, MSEE) and Technical Management (MS). He has been awarded the NASA Achievement Award (based n work with NEAR) and was a Technical Fellow for Northrop Grumman. He has authored over 25 papers.

Contact this instructor (please mention course name in the subject line)

What You Will Learn:

Provide fundamental equations and background information to design spaceborne or aircraft-based laser radar instruments. Equations are derived in the introduction chapters for laser radars, with examples for provided. Aspects of development and integrate/test (I&T) of laser radars will also be provided

  • Fundamental laser radar operation and design
  • Critical equations associated with laser radar performance and capabilities
  • Review and introduction to critical laser radar technologies
  • Design evaluation tools for optimizing laser radar implementation and performance

Course Outline:

  1. UAS Basics. Your introduction to the field of unmanned aircraft. The lesson provides Definitions, Principles and Terminology in common usage and to ‘baseline’ comprehension for later modules. Components of a typical Unmanned System are illustrated by numerous current examples then a list of terms and operating parlance leads to the surprisingly complex topic of UAS / RPAS definitions. UAS categories are introduced as well as the concept of Levels of Interoperability (LOI) and some of the common Operational methods in use. A brief review of some serious issues and more real-world examples conclude the Module.

  2. UAS Types. The surprisingly complex topic of classification for UAS is addressed in depth. Options that are covered include military and civilian Tiers, Groups, Size / Weight classes, Performance, Level of Autonomy and Airspace access. National and International methods for classifying UAVs are then compared. Finally, ‘standard’ classes are suggested and their defining characteristics (size, range, datalinks, CONOPS) listed to assist in future comparisons. Likely class developments are suggested to complete the topic.

  3. UAS Roles. A broad-ranging study of the rapidly expanding number of military and civilian missions that UAS are employed within. Review of their execution in increasingly complex roles: ISTAR, Force Protection, Kinetic Operations, EW, Search & Rescue, SIGINT, communications relay, law enforcement, disaster relief, fire detection & assessment, customs & border patrol, nuclear inspection, natural resources & wildlife management, surveys, hurricane tracking, photography. Finally the potential for future missions and issues facing civilian utilization as well as cost/benefit analyses versus manned platforms are all highlighted.

  4. UAS CONOPS. Comparative study of different Concepts of Operation for military and civilian UAS. A definition of CONOPs is followed by a review of the numerous factors affecting how UAS could (or even should) be operated, ranging from airframe and legal limitations, through mission requirements and even onto cultural elements. A list of common CONOPs are studied, to include Visual/Radar Line of Sight (V/RLOS); Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS); Remote Split Operations (RSO); Relay Operations and beyond. Restricted Airspace and different Command and Control (C2) arrangements are covered leading to a challenging real-world scenario quiz.

  5. Case Study 1: MQ-8B. Our first Case Study is designed to monitor a UAS program from ‘cradle to grave’. This one follows the trials, tribulations and ultimate successes of the MQ-8B Firescout RW VTOL UAS currently being fielded by the US Navy. Using a ‘timeline’ approach, the Module begins with predecessor platforms and requirements and moves through selection and UAS development. An in-depth look at the system and its operation includes payload options and capabilities. The discussion continues with programmatic issues, trials problems (and resolutions) and fielding reports all included. Finally a comparison with ‘similar’ platforms leads to a review of the programs’ likely future.

  6. Future Capabilities. Designed to focus lessons learned from previous Modules on the rapidly developing global UAS field. Covers topics including: Technology advance timelines, automation levels and HITL / HMI; Manufacturing advances; Propulsion and fuel developments. These are followed by a review of novel UAS Types: 'Stratellites', UCAV, LTA, Nano and then future civil and military roles: Air-to-air refueling, ultra-long endurance, electronic warfare, agricultural, border security, wide area surveillance.

  7. Components 1. The first of three modules examining the various elements of the Unmanned Aircraft System. Provides a breakdown of all hardware elements with a focus on similarities to manned systems, including Ground Control Stations. The aircraft systems are described in detail with a comparison between different UAS classes: Propulsion, Fuels, Auxiliary systems, autopilots and navigation equipment. Introduction of SWaP concept and an overview of developing technology (fuel cells, airframe printing etc.) complete the Module, which assists in preparation for the Design Practical.

  8. Components 2. A closer look at hardware elements and software algorithms designed specifically for UAS. A review of Autopilots leads to a study of various Automatic Take Off and Landing (ATOL) systems and both Airborne Sense and Avoid (ABSAA) and Ground-based Sense and Avoid (GBSAA) options. Flight Termination Systems (FTS) and Automatic Recovery Systems (ARS) are discussed, highlighting ‘Lost Link’ logic issues.

  9. Datalinks. Introduction of Datalink terminology, concepts and components leads to a study of common datalinks including TCDL, VMF and Link 16. Breakdown of LOS and BLOS hardware and capabilities. Satcom ‘Shadow’ and Lost Link reviews are followed by a section on EM Spectrum management and typical frequency utilization.

  10. Payloads. An important Module highlighting the concept of UAVs as ‘Payload Trucks’ and the numerous options for what can be carried internally or externally. A SWaP refresher leads into a very useful series of ‘Rules of Thumb’, used extensively throughout the Courses and the Design Practical. Current and comprehensive examples, of all UAS groups, are used to elucidate the concepts. A thorough review of all current major payloads, with civilian and military sub-groups, include Atmospheric / Ground Sensing, Agricultural, Law Enforcement, ‘Mother ships’, Multi-user and Resupply options as a small part of the list.

  11. Sensors. This very large and comprehensive brief on such an essential UAS topic is split into 3 sections: Sensor Basics, EO/IR systems and Radar systems. The introduction gives an EM spectrum overview relevant to UAS sensors, and then covers common terminology and concepts from Low Light Fusion, Emissivity, Polarity, Delta-T, NIIRS, Resolution/Swath and FMV equivalence. A detailed look at a ‘standard’ EO/IR/LLTV sensor package and its capabilities (to include Lasers) leads into more advanced systems such as WAASS and Hyperspectral. A survey of the current ‘families’ of fielded EO/IR sensors conclude this section. After a refresher on SAR and GMTI principles, a similar study of a ‘standard’ UAS radar sensor payload is followed by another review of the available systems on the market.

  12. UAS Weapons. This specialized Brief within the UAS Payloads genre is focused on the topic of arming UAVs for an ever-expanding array of military / para-public missions. The Module begins with an introduction to standard air-carried weaponry, including propulsion, guidance and damage mechanisms. Current and near-future UAV weapons capabilities are covered in depth, to include SWaP and usage considerations for AGM-114 Hellfire, AIM-92 Stinger, AGM-175 Griffin, GBU-12 Paveway, GBU-38 JDAM, Pyros, Hatchet, GBU-44/B Viper Strike, JAGM. Comprehensive examples and videos are used to illustrate the potential of this field. More unusual examples are also covered, to include 'suicide' UAS profiles and 'Mothership' payloads. Finally the common methodology of UAV-directed kinetic effects are studied, to include own-ship, buddy lase and artillery support.

  13. Communications & Data Links. Current State of Data Links, Future Data Link Needs, Line of Sight Fundamentals, Beyond Line of Sight Fundamentals, UAS Communications Failure, Link Enhancements, STANAG 4586, Multi UAS Control

  14. Tasking & Practical. This comprehensive look at the entire Tasking – Collecting - Processing – Exploiting – Disseminating (TCPED) process for ISR collection takes place over 3 modules and one Practical session. Beginning with defining each step, as well as updates to the cycle (PCPAD, TPPU, etc.), the Tasking Module reviews current military practices and terminology to include CCIRs, EEI, PIRs, Collection Lists and ATOs. The Practical session ‘ deploys’ you virtually to solve a real-world civilian problem by defining the information requirements and using your UAS assets in the most efficient manner. Weather, Maintenance and other problems are also encountered in this highly engaging scenario. A final PED Module completes the loop and also contains a small Imagery Analysis task for the attendees.

  15. Airspace Integration. This extremely important area of UAS study introduces the numerous hurdles, with some solutions, to achieve FINAS: Flight in Non-segregated Airspace. An overview of the difficult international airspace environment, airspace categories, current UAS operations as well as UAS-specific problems from frequency deconfliction to a lack of lost-link standard procedures are all introduced. The obstacles to FINAS are reviewed in depth: UAV / UAS Airworthiness certification, ELOS and TLOS safety measurements, human factors and GCS development, ground and airborne sense and avoid systems, collision avoidance methods, datalink security, spectrum protection, operator training standards and CONOPs. The ‘5 Steps to Certification’ are proposed with a review of relevant global documentation and studies in each step.

  16. Imagery Fundamentals. IMINT within ISR, IA techniques, Scaling and measurement, Plotting and target location, Mission planning, Analyzing an image (infrastructure, vehicles, aircraft, maritime, generics),Product creation (storyboard, DTA, route recce, etc), Briefing styles and techniques

  17. Imagery Processing Practical. Electronic Light Table Intro (ELT) and practice,

  18. IA Exercise. Read-in, Exercise, analysis and product creation, Presentations, Washup, Debrief


    Tuition for this two-day course is $1290 per person at one of our scheduled public courses. Onsite pricing is available. Please call us at 410-956-8805 or send an email to