Sea test development of laser altimeter
Crittenden, Eugene Casson
Rodeback, George Wayne
Milne, Edmund Alexander
Cooper, Alfred William
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Low altitude (81 m.) narrow-beam laser reflectance measurements were made from the nearly ocean-like water surface under the Golden Gate bridge. This site allowed precise measurements not possible from flying platforms. For short wavelength water waves superimposed on swell, the signal amplitude probability distribution showed periods of zero return signal, even for vertical incidence, apparently due to tipping of the average water surface. The nonzero signals show an antilog-normal probability distribution, skewed toward higher signal than that provided by a normal (Gaussian) distribution. With incidence angle displaced from the vertical, the distribution shape is retained but with more frequent zero reflections. The decrease with angle of the average signal, including the zeroes, is well fitted with a Gram-Charlier distribution, as seen by earlier observers using photographic techniques which masked these details of the structure. For the simpler wave pattern due to a long sustained wind direction, the signal amplitude probability distribution is lognormal with no zero signal periods. For this case, the distribution shifts toward exponential at large angles from the vertical. For surface states intermediate between the above two extremes the distribution is often normal. The larger return signals resulting from the skew toward larger amplitudes from lognormal are more favorable for disposable laser altimeters than previously believed. Also for an altimeter which may be swinging from a parachute or balloon, the return at angles from the vertical remains high. The presence of occasional zero return signal does degrade the accuracy of altitude somewhat for a descending altimeter, but the signal available assures performance at larger altitudes than previously expected.
NPS Report NumberNPS-PH-91-006
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