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  • Underwater depth imaging using time- correlated single-photon counting

    Aurora Maccarone,1 Aongus McCarthy,1 Ximing Ren,1 Ryan E. Warburton,1 Andy M. Wallace,2 James Moffat,3 Yvan Petillot,2 and Gerald S. Buller1

    1Institute of Photonics and Quantum Sciences, and Scottish Universities Physics Alliance (SUPA), Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, EH14 4AS, UK

    2Institute of Sensors, Signals & Systems, School of Engineering and Physical Sciences, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, EH14 4AS, UK

    3Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Portsdown West, PO17 6AD, UK

    Abstract: A depth imaging system, based on the time-of-flight approach and the time-correlated single-photon counting (TCSPC) technique, was investigated for use in highly scattering underwater environments. The system comprised a pulsed supercontinuum laser source, a monostatic scanning transceiver, with a silicon single-photon avalanche diode (SPAD) used for detection of the returned optical signal. Depth images were acquired in the laboratory at stand-off distances of up to 8 attenuation lengths, using per-pixel acquisition times in the range 0.5 to 100 ms, at average optical powers in the range 0.8 nW to 950 μW. In parallel, a LiDAR model was developed and validated using experimental data. The model can be used to estimate the performance of the system under a variety of scattering conditions and system parameters. ©2015 Optical Society of America OCIS codes: (110.6880) Three-dimensional image acquisition; (280.3640) Lidar; (030.5260) Photon counting; (110.0113) Imaging through turbid media; (010.4450) Oceanic optics.

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    1. Introduction

    Underwater optical imaging is a field of increasing interest in a range of applications areas, including defence [1], marine science [2] and civil engineering [3]. Achieving high resolution images at ranges in excess of a few meters using conventional cameras remains a challenge due to the high optical attenuation levels in water. Obtaining two- and three-dimensional images of underwater terrains has long been the domain of sonar systems. Using acoustic underwater systems, images with a resolution of 3 cm at 50 meters can be obtained with the latest generation of synthetic aperture sonars [4], while high resolution scanning sonars allow millimeter resolution but at only up to a range of a few meters (3-5 m). Several optical imaging systems are also available and they can be divided in two classes, passive and active. Passive systems use natural light for illumination while active systems employ an artificial light source. It is often useful to characterize the source-target path in terms of the number of attenuation lengths, where an attenuation length is defined as the distance after which the transmitted light power is reduced to 1/e of its initial value. The human eye or camera systems are examples of passive systems and can image up to 3 or 4 attenuation lengths under ideal illumination conditions [5]. Significant improvements in image quality at longer distances can be obtained with active systems, in particular with systems based on Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) in which the target is

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