NASA remote sensing and LiDAR applications require compact, efficient, reliable, moderate-energy, nanosecond-pulsed lasers. These missions require improved and precision technology from previously flown LiDAR technologies as well as much reduced size, weight, and power (SWaP) given the resource-constrained class of missions likely to use this capability. Missions to solar system bodies must meet increasingly ambitious objectives requiring highly reliable "soft and precision landing", "hazard avoidance", "topography mapping" and "autonomous rendezvous to other satellites" etc. Robotic missions to the Moon and Mars demand landing at pre-designated sites of high scientific value near hazardous terrain features, such as escarpments, craters, slopes, and rocks. Given the high sensitivity of launch requirements to SWaP considerations and to reliability, we feel that the proposed laser source is uniquely positioned for LiDAR remote sensing and autonomous landing based missions. Other NASA mission profiles or applications that would benefit from generically small, light- weight, low power laser sources would be equally well served.
An ultra-compact laser source can be used at 1 or 0.5 micron wavelength for LiDAR applications to map and image objects; a narrow laser-beam can map physical features with very high resolution. It can target a wide range of materials, including non-metallic objects, rocks, rain, chemical compounds, aerosols, clouds, and even single molecules. 0.5 mm wavelength penetrates water easily and is useful for bathymetry measurements in shallow water. The proposed laser can be used in the Automotive Safety and Navigation, Geography, Law Enforcement, Meteorology, Mining, Robotics, and Wind Farms markets. Military lasers have reached size and energy criteria but always at the cost of poor beam quality and consequent difficulties in atmospheric propagation for their intended applications. Q-Peak's advantage would be in having developed an ultra-compact, simple, and rugged technology for generation of single mode laser pulses in the green, near-IR, or eyesafe regions. This laser device will be much better suited for fieldable systems than present products with respect to both SWaP and mode profile. When converted to eyesafe wavelength present Department of Defense procurement of eyesafe rangefinder exceeds 2,500 units per annum with a constant need to advance the state of the art and reduce soldier carry-weight and workload. The laser architecture proposed here would have great promise in fulfilling an Urgent Needs Requirement for all branches of the DOD interested in precision targeting.