Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

First Advisor

Matthew E. Goda, PhD


The effect of turbulence on laser propagation is a significant challenge to current electro-optical systems. While atmospheric compensation techniques in space object imaging and high-energy laser weapons have been thoroughly investigated, optimizing these techniques for Laser Communication (LaserCom) has not been examined to the same degree. Average Strehl ratio is the typical design metric for current atmospheric compensation systems. However, fade probability is the relevant metric for LaserCom. This difference motivated the investigation into metric-driven atmospheric compensation. Metric-based tracking techniques for fade mitigation is the first major focus of this research. In a moderate range air-to-air scenario, focal plane spot breakup is the dominant failure mechanism. Although the impact of spot breakup on average Strehl is small, spot breakup considerably increases fade probability. This result demonstrates that optimization of an atmospheric compensation system requires consideration of the metric of interest. Metric-driven design led to exploration of peak intensity tracking, which reduces fade probability by greater than 50% over conventional centroid trackers and Adaptive Optics (AO) systems for scenarios studied. An investigation of atmospheric compensation requirements based on deep fade phenomenology is the second major focus of this research. Fades are classified based on complexity of the required compensation technique. For compensation techniques studied, regions of superior performance, in terms of fade probability, are identified. Peak tracking is shown to outperform AO for thresholds below approximately 4% of the unabberated intensity. Furthermore, the boundary between superior performance regions is nearly invariant to turbulence strength. This boundary invariance simplifies operation of a composite system which is able to adaptively select compensation methodology in near real-time.

AFIT Designator