Abstract

Weight reduction and low power consumption are key requirements in the next generation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). To communicate with an operator, a secured link between the UAV and a ground-based station is desirable. To realize these links, retroreflecting free-space optics is potentially attractive as it offers light weight and low complexity at the UAV. However, the base station requires a high-performance tracking module to enable a steady illumination of the UAV retroreflector. In this paper, we present the design and implementation of a tracking system, which consists of coarse tracking and holographic fine tracking modules working cooperatively. Using this system, experimental field trials were carried out by mounting a multiple-quantum-well-based modulated retroreflector on a commercial UAV. A 2 Mbps optical link was achieved with a bit error rate of 2×104 at a link range of 300 m.

© 2016 Optical Society of America

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