A team of Western Australian researchers has found a way to avoid the use of radio transmitters in critical communications using new technology using super-fast optical lasers.
Researchers from the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) worked on this project for two years and published their findings in the journal Scientific Reports.
Although optical communications have been used since the 1980s, government and industry continue to rely on radio transmission technology in environments such as satellite communications due to atmospheric turbulence. Atmospheric turbulence causes laser beams to drift away from their intended target.
While there have been advances in the use of optical wireless communications in recent years, this WA discovery addresses the turbulence problem by using a very fast steering mirror that can correct for turbulence at a rate of hundreds of times per second.
This means superior optical wireless transmission can be used in more environments, reducing reliance on slower wireless transmission.
Lead researcher Dr. Shane Walsh explains how his team found a way to use optical communications to lock on a fast-moving target in a turbulent environment with an uninterrupted, high-speed signal.
“This is the culmination of more than two years of research and testing, taking space communications from an effective ‘dial-in’ speed in turbulence to a super-fast ‘broadband’ speed.
“I’m proud that our WA research team was able to contribute a piece to this crucial communication puzzle by combining existing research with the expertise of our team,” he said.
The team’s discovery was put through its paces using a drone simulating a fast-moving target. As a next step, the researchers plan to test the technology with an aircraft at higher altitudes and eventually with a spacecraft in low-Earth orbit.
Researchers are now developing a purpose-built optical communications ground station in WA which, once completed, will allow them to further develop and commercialize the technology. It is expected to be used by industry and governments alike in applications as diverse as spacecraft communications, meteorology, defense and disaster management.
Materials provided by International center for radio astronomical research. Note: Content can be edited for style and length.