Spectral LADAR: Active Range-Resolved Imaging Spectroscopy
Davis, Christopher C
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Imaging spectroscopy using ambient or thermally generated optical sources is a well developed technique for capturing two dimensional images with high per-pixel spectral resolution. The per-pixel spectral data is often a sufficient sampling of a material's backscatter spectrum to infer chemical properties of the constituent material to aid in substance identification. Separately, conventional LADAR sensors use quasi-monochromatic laser radiation to create three dimensional images of objects at high angular resolution, compared to RADAR. Advances in dispersion engineered photonic crystal fibers in recent years have made high spectral radiance optical supercontinuum sources practical, enabling this study of Spectral LADAR, a continuous polychromatic spectrum augmentation of conventional LADAR. This imaging concept, which combines multi-spectral and 3D sensing at a physical level, is demonstrated with 25 independent and parallel LADAR channels and generates point cloud images with three spatial dimensions and one spectral dimension. The independence of spectral bands is a key characteristic of Spectral LADAR. Each spectral band maintains a separate time waveform record, from which target parameters are estimated. Accordingly, the spectrum computed for each backscatter reflection is independently and unambiguously range unmixed from multiple target reflections that may arise from transmission of a single panchromatic pulse. This dissertation presents the theoretical background of Spectral LADAR, a shortwave infrared laboratory demonstrator system constructed as a proof-of-concept prototype, and the experimental results obtained by the prototype when imaging scenes at stand off ranges of 45 meters. The resultant point cloud voxels are spectrally classified into a number of material categories which enhances object and feature recognition. Experimental results demonstrate the physical level combination of active backscatter spectroscopy and range resolved sensing to produce images with a level of complexity, detail, and accuracy that is not obtainable with data-level registration and fusion of conventional imaging spectroscopy and LADAR. The capabilities of Spectral LADAR are expected to be useful in a range of applications, such as biomedical imaging and agriculture, but particularly when applied as a sensor in unmanned ground vehicle navigation. Applications to autonomous mobile robotics are the principal motivators of this study, and are specifically addressed.