Imaging through obscurants using time-correlated single-photon counting in the short-wave infrared
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Single-photon time-of-flight (ToF) light detection and ranging (LiDAR) systems have emerged in recent years as a candidate technology for high-resolution depth imaging in challenging environments, such as long-range imaging and imaging in scattering media. This Thesis investigates the potential of two ToF single-photon depth imaging systems based on the time-correlated single-photon (TCSPC) technique for imaging targets in highly scattering environments. The high sensitivity and picosecond timing resolution afforded by the TCSPC technique offers high-resolution depth profiling of remote targets while maintaining low optical power levels. Both systems comprised a pulsed picosecond laser source with an operating wavelength of 1550 nm, and employed InGaAs/InP SPAD detectors. The main benefits of operating in the shortwave infrared (SWIR) band include improved atmospheric transmission, reduced solar background, as well as increased laser eye-safety thresholds over visible band sensors. Firstly, a monostatic scanning transceiver unit was used in conjunction with a single-element Peltier-cooled InGaAs/InP SPAD detector to attain sub-centimetre resolution three-dimensional images of long-range targets obscured by camouflage netting or in high levels of scattering media. Secondly, a bistatic system, which employed a 32 × 32 pixel format InGaAs/InP SPAD array was used to obtain rapid depth profiles of targets which were flood-illuminated by a higher power pulsed laser source. The performance of this system was assessed in indoor and outdoor scenarios in the presence of obscurants and high ambient background levels. Bespoke image processing algorithms were developed to reconstruct both the depth and intensity images for data with very low signal returns and short data acquisition times, illustrating the practicality of TCSPC-based LiDAR systems for real-time image acquisition in the SWIR wavelength region - even in the photon-starved regime.