Free space optics refers to the use of lasers to create a communications network that can transmit and receive voice, video, or other data communication modes. Some of the key advantages of free space optics include the immunity of this technology from RF interference or crowding of multiple communications over the same band, tight security, and the ability of operators to work without the need of a license like those needed for RF communications.
Overcoming Architectural Complexities
Of the few but solid problems that stand in the way of commercializing free space optics is atmospheric interference. Researchers have attempted to mitigate the issues in the past and in recent years, quite a few have succeeded in showing the feasibility of the technology. Free space optics also poses quite serious architectural requirements but a lot of them have already been shown as possible time and again. Researchers have shown successful experiments of using free space optics over air and space. The results of these experiments and interest is the formation of The Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems, which is a community formed to create standardizations for the large scale use of free space optics.
The Underwater Niche
One of the more interesting niche fields that free space optics could be a massive advantage in, is underwater exploration. Members from the North Carolina State University are currently working on the use of free space optics in underwater communications, using blue-green or blue LEDs and lasers to create a high-bandwidth underwater communications network. The research shows that the efficiency of the network is highly dependent on the quality of water along with a few other factor, but the overall possibilities of free space optics in this field includes communications systems for underwater robots and manned vehicles, and underwater and subsea structures.