Wednesday, May 27, 2015

SWEEPER demonstrates wide-angle optical phased array technology

SWEEPER demonstrates wide-angle optical phased array technology: Many essential military capabilities-including autonomous navigation, chemical-biological sensing, precision targeting and communications-increasingly rely upon laser-scanning technologies such as LIDAR (think radar that uses light instead of radio waves).

These technologies provide amazing high-resolution information at long ranges but have a common Achilles heel: They require mechanical assemblies to sweep the laser back and forth. These large, slow opto-mechanical systems are both temperature- and impact-sensitive and often cost tens of thousands of dollars each-all factors that limit widespread adoption of current technologies for military and commercial use.

In an advance that could upend this status quo, DARPA's Short-range Wide-field-of-view Extremely agile Electronically steered Photonic EmitteR (SWEEPER) program has successfully integrated breakthrough non-mechanical optical scanning technology onto a microchip.

Freed from the traditional architecture of gimbaled mounts, lenses and servos, SWEEPER technology has demonstrated that it can sweep a laser back and forth more than 100,000 times per second, 10,000 times faster than current state-of-the-art mechanical systems.