Photonic Sensors

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 170–178 | Cite as

Experimental Study on PAT System for Long-Distance Laser Communications Between Fixed-Wing Aircrafts

  • Yao LeiEmail author
  • Xiaoming Li
  • Lizhong Zhang
Open Access


Free-space laser communication is characterized by high communication speed, strong anti-jamming ability, high confidentiality, and flexible configuration. In this paper, a pointing, acquisition, and tracking (PAT) system based on a two-stage (i.e., coarse and fine) composite tracking mechanism is proposed to solve the optical axis alignment problem, which is common in free-space laser communications. The acquisition probability of the PAT system is ensured by designing two tracking modules, a coarse tracking module which combines passive damping with active suppression and a fine tracking module based on an electromagnetic galvanometer. Both modules are combined by using a dynamic scanning mechanism based on the gyroscope signal. Finally, a free-space laser communication test with a long range and a high speed is conducted by two fixed-wing Y12 aircrafts equipped with the proposed PAT system. Experimental results show that the coarse tracking precision of the airborne PAT system is 10 μrad (1σ), and the fine tracking precision is 8 μrad (1σ) during flights which are much improved as compared with the indoor tests. This indicates that the system can achieve a high precision for PAT during high-speed and long-range laser communications in the free-space. This also verifies the tracking capability and the environmental adaptability of the proposed laser communication PAT system.


PAT system laser communications airborne platform coarse tracking error fine tracking error 



This project was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 51505087). Also, we thank the Collaborative Innovation Center of High-End Equipment Manufacturing in Fujian Province of China for applying the experimental field.


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© The Author(s) 2018

Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Mechanical Engineering and AutomationFuzhou UniversityFuzhouChina
  2. 2.National and Local Joint Engineering Research Center of Space Optoelectronics TechnologyChangchun University of Science and TechnologyChangchunChina
  3. 3.Institute of Space Optoelectronic TechnologyChangchun University of Science and TechnologyChangchunChina

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