Free-space optics today requires a telescope, bulk lasers with mechanical beam-steering, detectors, and electronics. The Modular Optical Aperture Building Blocks (MOABB) program seeks to design all of these components into a single integrated device. In what would be deemed as the most complex electronic-photonic circuit ever fashioned, the program’s performers will work to create a wafer-scale system that is 100x smaller and lighter than conventional systems and can steer the optical beam 1,000x faster than mechanical components.
A primary goal of the MOABB program is the demonstration of integrated electronic-photonic unit cells that can be tiled together to form large-scale planar apertures. The program calls for devices that are modular and scalable to apertures of up to 10 centimeters in diameter and that can run at 100 watts of optical power. Another primary objective is the operation of a fully-functional, chip-scale LIDAR system capable of three-dimensional (3-D) imaging at a range of 100 meters.
Successful completion of the MOABB program could enable rapid 3-D scanning using devices smaller than a cell-phone camera, high-speed laser communications without mechanical steering, foliage-penetrating perimeter sensing, remote wind sensing, and long-range 3-D mapping. Such capabilities could, in turn, find applications in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), autonomous navigation, optical communication systems, and robotics.
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