Abstract

Free-space optical communication can allow high-bandwidth data links that are hard to detect, intercept, or jam. This makes them attractive for many applications. However, these links also require very accurate pointing, and their availability is affected by weather. These challenges have limited the deployment of free-space optical systems. The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory has, for the last 15 years, engaged in research into atmospheric propagation and photonic components with a goal of characterizing and overcoming these limitations. In addition several demonstrations of free-space optical links in real-world Navy applications have been conducted. This paper reviews this work and the principles guiding it.

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