The Phase I effort paves the way for a very important component that is key to most coherent lidar system. Of immediate interest, the proposed advanced coherent lidar receiver (CLR) performs real-time signal processing that is common to any Doppler frequency measurement instrument. The proposed advanced CLR has the potential to enhance the sensitivity of an aircraft wind velocity measurement lidar by two orders of magnitude. Other NASA instrument that will immediately benefit from the proposed advanced CLR is the Navigation Doppler Lidar which uses a powerful data acquisition and processing system custom built at NASA Langley Research Center. The CLR can potentially provide the same capability at a fraction of the cost, with less power consumption, and enhanced signal acquisition sensitivity.
An advanced CLR applications are not limited to NASA missions. Coherent lidar is used by many government organizations such as NOAA, DoD, DoE to name just a few. Simplifying coherent Lidar at the receiver will reduce cost and support hardware needed for typical coherent lidar applications. Such a device can be integrated into the growing number of self-driving cars, by providing inexpensive solution to situational awareness. The increased sensitivity from this receiver coupled with the short operational distances needed for these vehicles would make it possible to develop low power, high accuracy velocity mapping of the vehicles surroundings. This is a significant improvement over time-of-flight situational awareness laser sensors currently employed in driverless cars. In addition, the cost of the sensor becomes significantly more affordable, which is one of the hurdles facing driverless car manufacturers.