Effect of atmospheric turbulence on synthetic aperture ladar imaging performance

Date of Award


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Electro-Optics


Department of Electro-Optics and Photonics


Advisor: Matthew Paul Dierking


Synthetic aperture LADAR (SAL) has been widely investigated over the last 15 years with many studies and experiments examining its performance. Comparatively little work has been done to investigate the effect of atmospheric turbulence on SAL performance. The turbulence work that has been accomplished is in related fields or under weak turbulence assumptions. This research investigates some of the fundamental limits of turbulence on SAL performance. Seven individual impact mechanisms of atmospheric turbulence are examined including: beam wander, beam growth, beam breakup, piston, coherence diameter/length, isoplanatic angle (anisoplanatism) and coherence time. Each component is investigated separately from the others through modeling to determine their respective effect on standard SAL image metrics. Analytic solutions were investigated for the SAL metrics of interest for each atmospheric impact mechanism. The isolation of each impact mechanism allows identification of mitigation techniques targeted at specific, and most dominant, sources of degradation. Results from this work will be critical in focusing future research on those effects which prove to be the most deleterious. Previous research proposed that the resolution of a SAL system was limited by the SAL coherence diameter/length r̃ _0 which was derived from the average autocorrelation of the SAL phase history data. The present research confirms this through extensive wave optics simulations. A detailed study is conducted that shows, for long synthetic apertures, measuring the peak widths of individual phase histories may not accurately represent the true resolving power of the synthetic aperture. The SAL wave structure function and degree of coherence are investigated for individual turbulence mechanisms. Phase is shown to be an order of magnitude stronger than amplitude in its impact on imaging metrics. In all the analyses, piston variation and coherence diameter make up the majority of errors in SAL image formation.


Synthetic aperture radar Image quality, Laser beams Atmospheric effects, Atmospheric turbulence, Optical radar, Optics, Physics, ladar, lidar, synthetic aperture imaging, synthetic aperture ladar, turbulence, atmospheric turbulence, SAL

Rights Statement

Copyright © 2017, author