High performance in combination with small size, low weight and low power consumption are among the main drivers in modern defense and commercial applications of laser systems. Consequently, designers of such systems strive for innovative solutions in the field of laser technology. Ten years ago Safran Vectronix AG (hereafter Vectronix) pioneered these activities with the fielding of the first fiber laser for hand-held rangefinders. This paper will deal with the latest evolution of an eye-safe fiber laser source which can emit two wavelengths for an extended range of applications. In order to comply with high performance requirements the laser on one side has to produce high enough pulse energy and on the other side – especially due to the ever increasing requirement for compactness – to use so called single-stage amplification in combination with bending insensitive fiber solutions. Also, the ASE (Amplified Spontaneous Emission) has to be reduced as much as possible as this light enters the eye safety equation but does not contribute in terms of range performance. All of this has to meet severe environmental requirements typical for most demanding defense applications. Additionally, the laser in its rangefinding mode has to produce a sequence of high frequency pulses in such a way that no substantial temperature effects would arise and thus impair either the pulse energy or the boresight alignment. Additionally, in this paper, a compact dual-stage dual-wavelength version of the above laser will be described, which has been developed to generate much stronger pulses for very long rangefinding applications.
Small size and low weight are among the main drivers in modern military hand-held applications. Consequently, design-ers of such systems strive for combining multiple optical and electronic functions into the same piece of hardware. Present paper deals with the partial integration of an eye safe laser rangefinder into an optical channel for uncooled thermal imager using UMICORE's GASIR® optics. GASIR® is a chalcogenide glass with a transmission window from 0.8-15 µm, making it an effective material for use in near infrared, mid-wave infrared and far infrared applications.
Due to the fact that uncooled sensors in the LWIR spectral band require optics with low f/numbers and that laser range-finders typically need a larger receiver aperture - in order to comply with the maximum range requirement - this ap-proach at first sight promises favorable synergies. However, it soon turns out that such a dual band approach makes life for the rangefinder part of the job difficult - by imposing special surface types required for achieving optical specifica-tions of the thermal channel, which may deteriorate the beam quality of the laser light as well as by introducing special coatings with potentially insufficient transmission at the specific laser wavelength. Several design versions have been developed and evaluated with the purpose of finding optimal balance between image quality of the thermal channel and the laser rangefinder performance.
In this paper various optical and coating design aspects will be addressed together with the limitations of such a multi-spectral approach.