Navy eyes free-space laser communications to transmit wireless data to users more than six miles away

June 25, 2021
Free-space optical communications uses lasers propagating in free space to transmit data wirelessly for telecommunications or computer networking.

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – U.S. Navy communications experts are reaching out to industry to find companies able to develop laser communications systems that can maintain communications links from stationary or moving laser transmitters and receivers.

Officials of the Naval Information Warfare Center-Atlantic (NIWC-Atlantic) in North Charleston, S.C., issued a request for information (N65236_SNOTE_00746AD9) last week for the Free Space Optics Communications project.

Free-space optical communications uses a light source -- typically a laser -- propagating in free space to transmit wireless data for telecommunications or computer networking. Free space means air, outer space, vacuum, or something similar, and does not use solids such as optical fiber cable.

From industry, Navy researchers want information about tactical free-space optical communications technologies that at least are at Technology Readiness Level 4, which describes components assembled in a laboratory that are tested together.

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Technologies of interest include active pointing and tracking systems for maintaining links in dynamic environments. Tactical free-space optical communications systems that are of interest included fixed-site point to point transmitters and receivers that could be adapted to active pointing and tracking systems.

Navy researchers are looking for free-space optical communications solutions that can support multi-access from distributed end-users with automated network management, and that support multi-in, multi-out tactical free-space optical communications or non-line-of-sight tactical free-space optical communications through relay or re-transmission.

Responses will be selected for a technical exchange with NIWC Atlantic engineers. Information provided to the government will be part of a commercial survey of tactical free-space optical communications solutions with potential for future demonstrations.

Tactical free-space optical communications systems should be able to establish a non-line-of-sight link through relay or retransmission; include active pointing and tracking systems and automated network management, and have been demonstrated in the laboratory.

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Responses should include brief descriptions of the technology, with simple drawings depicting operation of the technology with generic components, and that specify link budgets for 1-, 5-, and 10-kilometer optical data links.

Descriptions should include approximate data rate and bit error rate at each range in a standard atmosphere, but may include link budgets that include scattering effects. All information delivered must be unclassified.

Companies interested should email responses no later than 16 July 2021 to [email protected]. Email questions or concerns to the Navy's Samuel Mellon at [email protected].

More information is online at

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