Abstract

Numerical simulations based on previously validated models for the wide-angle airborne laser ranging system are used here for assessing the precision in coordinate estimates of ground-based cube-corner retroreflectors (CCR’s). It is shown that the precision can be optimized to first order as a function of instrument performance, number of laser shots (LS’s), and network size. Laser beam divergence, aircraft altitude, and CCR density are only second-order parameters, provided that the number of echoes per LS is greater than 20. Thus precision in the vertical is ∼1 mm, with a signal-to-noise ratio of 50 at nadir, a 10-km altitude, a 20° beam divergence, and ∼5 × 103 measurements. Scintillation and fair-weather cumulus clouds usually have negligible influence on the estimates. Laser biases and path delay are compensated for by adjustment of aircraft offsets. The predominant atmospheric effect is with mesoscale nonuniform horizontal temperature gradients, which might lead to biases near 0.5 mm.

© 1999 Optical Society of America

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