Abstract

The signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and heterodyne efficiency are investigated for coherent (heterodyne detection) laser radar under the Fresnel approximation and general conditions. This generality includes spatially random fields, refractive turbulence, monostatic and bistatic configurations, detector geometry, and targets. For the first time to our knowledge, the effects of atmospheric refractive turbulence are included by using the path-integral formulation. For general conditions the SNR can be expressed in terms of the direct detection power and a heterodyne efficiency that can be estimated from the laser radar signal. For weak refractive turbulence (small irradiance fluctuations at the target) and under the Markov approximation, it is shown that the assumption of statistically independent paths is valid, even for the monostatic configuration. In the limit of large path-integrated refractive turbulence the SNR can become twice the statistically independent-path result. The effects of the main components of a coherent laser radar are demonstrated by assuming untruncated Gaussians for the transmitter, receiver, and local oscillator. The physical mechanisms that reduce heterodyne efficiency are identified by performing the calculations in the receiver plane. The physical interpretations of these results are compared with those obtained from calculations performed in the target plane.

© 1991 Optical Society of America

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