A number of field experiments measuring the fluctuating intensity of a laser beam propagating along horizontal paths in the maritime environment is performed over sub-kilometer distances at the United States Naval Academy. Both above the ground and over the water links are explored. Two different detection schemes, one photographing the beam on a white board, and the other capturing the beam directly using a ccd sensor, gave consistent results. The probability density function (pdf) of the fluctuating intensity is reconstructed with the help of two theoretical models: the Gamma-Gamma and the Gamma-Laguerre, and compared with the intensity’s histograms. It is found that the on-ground experimental results are in good agreement with theoretical predictions. The results obtained above the water paths lead to appreciable discrepancies, especially in the case of the Gamma-Gamma model. These discrepancies are attributed to the presence of the various scatterers along the path of the beam, such as water droplets, aerosols and other airborne particles. Our paper’s main contribution is providing a methodology for computing the pdf function of the laser beam intensity in the maritime environment using field measurements.
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