This focus issue offers a glimpse into the breadth and depth of research in optics and image processing at the Fraunhofer Institute of Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation (abbreviated Fraunhofer IOSB). The institute belongs to the Fraunhofer Society, which is Europe’s largest organization for applied research. The society comprises 72 institutes spread throughout Germany as well as subsidiaries in several European countries, and the USA, UK, Chile and Singapore, each focusing on different fields of applied science. It is named after the Bavarian physicist Joseph von Fraunhofer (1787-1826), the inventor of the spectrometer, optical lens manufacturer and an entrepreneur who exemplified the goals of the society, i.e.: a focus on research excellence, innovation, and commitment to market and customer-oriented research.

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There are several institutes in the Fraunhofer Society where work on optics, photonics and image processing is performed. Among them are the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering (IOF) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology (ILT). At Fraunhofer IOSB, research in these fields is carried out mainly at its locations in Ettlingen and Karlsruhe, with all papers in this focus issue coming from these two branches.

Although a relatively young member of the Fraunhofer Society, IOSB can look proudly at its past and with confidence into the future. It has emerged from a fusion of two institutions, the Research Institute for Optronics and Pattern Recognition (FOM)—itself a merger of the Research Institute for Information Processing and Pattern Recognition (FIM) from Ettlingen and the Research Institute for Optics (FfO) from Tübingen—and the Fraunhofer Institute for Information and Data Processing (IITB) from Karlsruhe. Readers who would like to learn more about the history of Fraunhofer IOSB, which extends chronologically and even thematically to the Association for the Promotion of Astrophysical Research, founded in 1955, are invited to visit https://www.iosb.fraunhofer.de/en/about-us/10-years-of-fraunhofer-IOSB/roots-of-fraunhofer-IOSB.html.

Topics of the contributions in this focus issue encompass development of high-energy NIR-to-MWIR laser sources, their propagation through the atmosphere and considerations of laser safety in reflection geometry from such sources. Furthermore, there are contributions on high-resolution confocal microscopy, ellipsometry for the determination of both angle of incidence and the complex refractive index, novel segmentation and classification approaches to data stemming from airborne and spaceborne optical sensors, and on engineering the multi-sensor mobile platform “MODISSA.” Lastly, the focus issue highlights work on adaptive optics and image post-processing, both used to compensate for the detrimental effects of atmospheric turbulence on laser and imaging systems.

We wish to thank the editorial board of Applied Optics for providing us with the opportunity to present results of our work in this forum. We also want to thank editorial and production staff at OSA and the reviewers for their service.

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