The objective of the proposal is exploring an opportunity for developing a versatile beam control system for LiDARs with both Doppler and time-of-flight measurement capability for enhanced navigation precision and reliability. New generation optics and electro-optics capabilities will be studied, adapted and customized to prove the feasibility of new generation LIDARs that could combine Doppler principles for object velocity measurements, and time-of-flight principles for direct altitude measurements. The system will be characterized by: 1) absence of mechanically moving parts, 2) a few millimeter thick planar structure even for large aperture sizes, 3) weighing grams only, 4) consuming a few milliwatts of electrical power, 5) controlled with voltages as small as 10V, 6) with millisecond, potentially, microsecond switching speeds, 7) ability to adapt to a wide range of ambient temperatures, and 8) resistance to mechanical shock and dust. The technology will enhance the dynamic range due to large area capability using thin and planar diffractive waveplate optics for controlling key propagation properties of both pulsed and cw laser beams. The Phase 1 objective is to develop the architectures and demonstrate feasibility of such a beam control system for the parameter range to be met for space vehicle landing applications.
Compact, low SWaP, non-mechanical, hence, robust, LiDARs with reliable and fast data acquisition capability that meet requirements for a space landing vehicle could be used for other NASA missions including asteroid flybys, swarms of cubesats, etc. due to higher precision guidance and navigation systems. Further developments would allow wind sensing and topology characterization functionalities for space craft.
Numerous non-NASA applications include auto-navigation systems for cars, drones, and robots. DoD may particularly be interested in UAV applications.