"Free Space Optics (FSO) is widely regarded as the next -generation high-speed wireless communication technology. FSO has demonstrated its capability to deliver data faster than any other state-of-the-art wireless communication technology. Today, terrestrial FSO links are able to reach 150 kilometers; unmultiplexed data rates of 2.5 Gbps have been achieved; Acquisition, Pointing, and Tracking (APT) systems have been successfully deployed between communication satellites; and carrier-class availability are being offered by FSO vendors. However, FSO has not seen widespread use in the military. This is attributed to the fact that military platforms are largely mobile, while the progress in the commercial arena has largely been confined to links between fixed sites. This thesis analyzes the features of FSO technology while being mindful of how these apply to the military. These features include the bandwidth, spectrum use, bit error rates, communications security, free-space loss, and power consumption. The limitations and challenges presented by atmospheric effects, directional precision, line-of-sight obstructions, and laser safety are also studied. A final section will look at the acquisition, pointing, and tracking mechanisms that are necessary for deploying FSO on mobile platforms."
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