UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Atmospheric laser communication - New challenges for applied meteorology. Fischer, Kenneth W.; Witiw, Michael R.; Baars, Jeffrey A.; Oke, Timothy R.


Atmospheric laser communication, often referred to as free-space optics (FSO) or free-space laser (FSL) communication, is similar to fiber optic cable in terms of carrier wavelength and bandwidth capability, but data are transmitted directly through the atmosphere via laser beams over paths from a few meters to 4 km or longer. FSL uses lasers in the near-infrared spectrum, typically at wavelengths of 850 or 1550 nm. Given these wavelengths, atmospheric attenuation must be considered, and an adequate margin of optical power (dB) must exist to support high system availability (the percentage of time that an FSL link is in operation, typically 99.9%). A visual range of 100 m can attenuate a laser beam at a rate of nearly 130 dB km−1. For short links (< 1200 m), fog and low clouds are the primary concerns. For longer links, scintillation, heavy rain, and snow frequently become issues. To address these issues, long-term climate data are analyzed to determine the frequency of occurrence of low visibilities and low-cloud ceilings. To estimate availability at a site of interest, adjustments to airport climate data are made to accommodate differences in altitude, geography, and the effects of the urban heat island. In sum, communication via FSL is a feasible alternative to fiber optic cable when atmospheric conditions are considered and properly analyzed. Copyright 2004 American Meteorological Society (AMS). Permission to use figures, tables, and brief excerpts from this work in scientific and educational works is hereby granted provided that the source is acknowledged. Any use of material in this work that is determined to be “fair use” under Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act or that satisfies the conditions specified in Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Act (17 USC §108, as revised by P.L. 94-553) does not require the AMS’s permission. Republication, systematic reproduction, posting in electronic form, such as on a web site or in a searchable database, or other uses of this material, except as exempted by the above statement, requires written permission or a license from the AMS. Additional details are provided in the AMS Copyright Policy, available on the AMS Web site located at (http://www.ametsoc.org/) or from the AMS at 617-227-2425 or copyright@ametsoc.org.

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