An innovative optical sensing and tracking system was designed to detect, track, and determine object distance and direction in a wide, full, solid angle (160 × 160°) with an extremely high spatial resolution (0.5°). A key design feature is the laser beam steering system comprised of micro-mirrors that spin and tilt synchronously to steer the beam across a predetermined scanning angle and interval in a conically shaped scan pattern.

The micro-mirror optical tracking and ranging system: 1) device submount, 2) optical receiver, 3) optical transmitter, 4) transmitting beam-shaping optics, 5) beam scanning and transmitting system, 6) transmitting and scanning beam, 7) detector focusing optics, and 8) reflected beam.

When the laser beam waveform reflects off an object in the scan pattern, it is detected by an optical receiver. An electronic control and operating system then processes the signal to yield the precise distance and position of the object. Further, the scan rate (nominally 512 kHz) is such that any reflected signal is detected without interference from other reflected signals at different locations within the scan pattern.

In addition to exceptional sensitivity, the device is designed to be physically compact, lightweight, and inexpensive to manufacture and maintain. It can be deployed to various aerial and ground mobile platforms for applications such as self-defense and protection. Operating parameters such as laser beam power and scan rate are intended to be scalable and tunable to meet user requirements.

The system is able to optically track fast-moving objects from tens of meters to several kilometers in distance, and displays superior performance over conventional radar or long-range optical detection systems.

For more information, contact Dr. Austin Leach at austin. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 406-994-7707.

Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the February, 2019 issue of Tech Briefs Magazine.

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