A new study has found that laser-based technology can serve as complementary solution to sonar sensors in detection and identification of underwater targets, especially in shallow waters, complex marine regions and inaccessible locations.

The research was commissioned by the European Defence Agency (EDA) and carried out by a consortium comprising the Swedish defence research body FOI and the French-German Institute of Saint-Louis (ISL).

EDA's study was based on the use of both Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) and Laser Detection and Ranging (LADAR) laser systems.

The study found that the technologies could be successfully incorporated into existing solutions for detection and identification of underwater targets, especially if they are located in difficult operating conditions such as in the Baltic Sea.

"The research concluded that laser-based technologies are a feasible and complementary solution for acoustic sensor systems, even in environments containing turbid waters."

The use of laser systems is expected to improve detection and identification times compared to sonar systems. For instance, airborne laser scanning can be deployed rapidly, which helps to detect underwater or floating objects.

Airborne laser scanning can also identify different types of targets, provided that the target is large enough, and in such cases, it is feasible to deploy a surface or underwater vessel equipped with a Laser Gated Viewing (LGV) or Underwater Laser Scanning (ULS) system to confirm the target.

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Image: Laser technology helps in detection and identification of underwater targets. Photo: Courtesy of European Defence Agency.