Unified Optical Scanning Technology

Chapter 4.10 - Scanner Devices and Techniques: Agile Beam Steering

4.10 AGILE BEAM STEERING

This chapter has been dedicated, thus far, to technology that is familiar operationally to many readers and that has enjoyed broad representation in the field through product optimization for useful application. Looking back to the Figure 4.1 classification of optical scanning technology at the introduction to this chapter, the disciplines that now merit attention are those that complete the bottom row of the low inertia category. The two on the left are represented in a class of growing work called agile beam steering [Wat1, McM, W&M, Farn]. Although these techniques were developed initially for such environmentally challenging tasks as laser radar and forward-looking IR (FLIR), continued advancement may allow their cost-effective extension to productive commercial application.

The principal motivation for these developments is to acquire the performance of the angularly articulated mirror while avoiding some of the concomitant burdens of size, weight, inertia, or power supply requirement. This has been a long-envisioned goal of many earlier researchers, in work having important similarities [Bei2] to the more current activity in agile beam steering. Recent research has, quite astutely, harvested and advanced new resources such as liquid crystal E-O phase shifters and micromachining techniques, assembled in novel configurations that embody problem-solving insight. Our objective is to offer a unified expression of this diverse R&D activity. Although many approaches to agile beam steering have been and will continue to be explored, primary attention is devoted to two principal techniques that have dominated investigation and development, the phased array and the decentered microlens array, along with some of their principal variations. Although the basic operation of these arrays differ, the commonality that exists in the formation of the steered wavefronts is discussed.

 

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