Monday October 2, 2006

Laser, Tag, We're It

The University of Dayton, U.S. Air Force and regional businesses are launching a $3.2 million institute Monday that they hope will hasten the development of a technology used to search for terrorists. The center establishes a curriculum dedicated to ladar technology.

The University of Dayton, U.S. Air Force and regional businesses are launching a $3.2 million institute Monday that they hope will hasten the development of a technology used to search for terrorists.

The Ladar and Optical Communications Institute (LOCI), in UD's College Park Center, establishes a curriculum dedicated to ladar technology and consolidates the brain power of the region's ladar researchers to put ladar on a faster track to the battlefield and business.

"This technology is still in its infancy and a center devoted to ladar will be a catalyst for rapid progress in the United States," said Joe Haus, UD electro-optics graduate program chair and LOCI director. "We hope more input from business means quicker use for ladar."

Twenty-two instructors from UD and the Air Force Institute of Technology will teach in what is believed to be the nation's first laser radar curriculum.

Ladar, or laser detection and ranging, is similar to radar, except it typically uses infrared lasers rather than radio waves to detect targets.

Multiple reflections from buildings in cities, tree canopies and other camouflage, which provide potential terrorist hiding places, can be eliminated with ladar, according to Haus. It also produces clearer images.

"Ladar images taken from the air can show details that are less than a foot in size on the ground. You won't be able to identify faces, but you can tell if people are there," Haus said.

Ladar has fewer false positives because of ground interference, can generate 3-D maps and detect biological agents, according to the funding proposal.

Non-military applications include alerting drivers to obstacles, land development and searches after disasters, Haus said.

Lasers used in ladar are not harmful and are not like the green lasers that reportedly caused problems for pilots a few years ago, according to Haus.

The students, many of whom will be enrolled in UD's School of Engineering, will have opportunities to perform research on campus and at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base with government researchers.

A governing board comprising representatives from the Air Force Research Lab, Air Force Institute of Technology, NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab and UD, as well as a technical advisory group represented by the institute's constituencies, will guide LOCI's planning.

ITT, L3 Cincinnati Electronics, Northrup-Grumman, Srico and Textron Systems are LOCI partners.

For more information, contact Joe Haus at 937-229-2394 or Brad Duncan at 937-229-2796.