Abstract—As free-space laser communications systems proliferate due to improved technology and transmission techniques, optical communication networks comprised of ground stations, aircraft, high altitude platforms, and satellites become an attainable goal. An important consideration for optical networks is the ability of optical communication terminals (OCT) to quickly locate one another and align their laser beams to initiate the acquisition sequence. This paper investigates promising low-cost technologies and novel approaches that will facilitate the targeting and acquisition tasks between counter terminals. Specifically, two critical technology areas are investigated: position determination (which includes location and attitude determination) and inter-terminal communications. A feasibility study identified multipleantenna global navigation satellite system (GNSS) systems and GNSS-aided inertial systems as possible position determination solutions. Personal satellite communication systems (e.g. Iridium or Inmarsat), third generation cellular technology (IMT-2000/UMTS), and a relatively new air traffic surveillance technology called Autonomous Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) were identified as possible inter-terminal communication solutions. A GNSS-aided inertial system and an ADS-B system were integrated into an OCT to demonstrate their utility in a typical optical communication scenario. Testing showed that these technologies have high potential in future OCTs, although improvements can be made to both to increase tracking accuracy
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