A high resolution ranging method is described utilizing a novel modulated waveform, hereafter referred to as coherent burst modulation. In the coherent burst method, high frequency modulation of an acoustic or electromagnetic transmitter, such as a laser, is performed at a modulation frequency. This modulation frequency is transmitted quasi-continuously in the form of interrupted bursts of radiation. Energy from the transmitter is directed onto a target, interacts with the target, and the returning energy is collected. The encoded burst pattern contained in the collected return signal is detected coherently by a receiver that is tuned so as to be principally sensitive to the modulation frequency. The receiver signal is processed to determine target range using both time-of-flight of the burst envelope and phase shift of the high frequency modulation. This approach effectively decouples the maximum unambiguous range and range resolution relationship of earlier methods, thereby allowing high precision ranging to be conducted at arbitrarily long distances using at least one burst of encoded energy. The use of a receiver tuned to the high frequency modulation contained within the coherent burst vastly improves both sensitivity in the detection of the target return signal and rejection of background interferences, such as ambient acoustic or electromagnetic noise. Simultaneous transmission at several energies (or wavelengths) is possible by encoding each energy with a separate modulation frequency or pattern; electronic demodulation at the receiver allows the return pattern for each energy to be monitored independently. Radial velocity of a target can also be determined by monitoring change in phase shift of the return signal as a function of time.
This invention was made with Government support under Contract No. DE-AC05-840R21400 awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy to Lockheed Martin Energy Systems, Inc. The U.S. Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract No. DE-AC05-840R21400 awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy; Lockheed Martin Energy Systems and the Oak Ridge Associated Universities have waived all rights to this invention to the inventors.