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NEWS | May 30, 2011

NRL Researchers Receive MILCOM Award

By Dom Panciarelli

Researchers representing four research disciplines at the Naval Research Laboratory received the Lt. Gen. Gordon T. Gould, Jr. MILCOM 2010 award for Best Classified Paper for their paper entitled Lasercom for Small Unmanned Aerial Systems Using a Modulating Retro-Reflector. The award is named for Lt. Gen Gordon T. Gould, Jr., a distinguished Air Force officer who held the position as Director of the Defense Communications Agency from 1971-1974. The project leader, Dr. Peter Goetz, accepted the award at the Technical Chairman's Awards Banquet of the MILCOM 2010 conference.

The NRL team designed and built free-space laser communication (lasercom) terminals for small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) using modulating retro-reflector (MRR) technology. MRRs enable the use of lasercom on platforms which are too small to carry a conventional lasercom terminal, or which would otherwise be incapable of achieving the pointing accuracy required for conventional lasercom. The research team designed and built MRR lasercom terminals that were flown and demonstrated on a Dakota UAV as wing-pods and subsequently tested on a smaller UAV. A bi-directional lasercom ethernet link was established, and live video and data files were transferred.

Goetz reports, NRL is a world leader in free-space lasercom and holds several patents in MRR technology, which was an outgrowth of NRL 6.1 and 6.2 research. In addition to MRRs for UAVs, NRL has also developed MRR and conventional lasercom systems for numerous other military platforms where RF communications is either denied or undesirable. NRL lasercom systems have been demonstrated on Navy ships at sea, small craft for maritime interdiction operations, explosive ordinance disposal robots in a heavily-jammed environment, as well as several other systems requiring small, low-power, low-probability-of-interception communications.

The team that received the award is comprised of personnel representing four NRL research organizations plus two contractor companies. Team members are: Dr. Peter Goetz, Mr. James Murphy, Dr. Rita Mahon, Mr. Mike Ferraro, and Dr. William Rabinovich of the Optical Sciences Division; Ms. Michele Suite, Mr. Walter Smith, Mr. Ben Xu, Dr. Harris Burris, and Dr. Christopher Moore of the Naval Center for Space Technology; Mr. Steven Carruthers and Mr. Christopher Bovais of the Tactical Electronic Warfare Division; Dr. Warren Schultz of the Chemistry Division; Mr. Wade Freeman, Mr. Steven Frawley, and Mr. Michael Colbert of Smart Logic, Inc., Vienna, Va.; and Mr. Barry Mathieu of Barry Design, LLC, Crofton, Md.

The Military Communications Conference (MILCOM) is co-sponsored by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA). According to MILCOM, it is one of the largest government/industry conferences in the world, and the premier technical communications, networking and information-sharing event of its kind. More than 4,500 people from 43 countries attended MILCOM 2010, including professionals from government, scientific, academic and engineering communities, contractors, allies, and top international educational institutions. Over 1500 abstracts were received for consideration for this year's conference, with over 460 presented, reports MILCOM.

The paper is derived from work sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense's Rapid Reaction Technology Office (RRTO). The paper will made be available to authorized users through the Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC) website. A related unclassified paper, Modulating Retro-reflector Lasercom Systems at the Naval Research Laboratory, is available from the IEEE in the MILCOM 2010 Proceedings.

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