RMC’s Image Processing Research Group focuses on the study, development, and implementation of long-range imaging and free-space optical communication.

It is led by Dr. Don McGaughey, who is a member of NATO SET-226, focusing on turbulence mitigation for electro optics and laser systems. Along with his team of graduate students and researchers, Dr. McGaughey conducts research on optical image clarity for use in data transfer and long-range surveillance.

In areas where laying down a physical connection such as an optical fiber cable would be impractical or dangerous, lasers can be used over distances to transfer data in a similar way. However, this comes with its own unique set of challenges—problems primarily caused by the earth’s atmosphere. Microscopic movements of the laser aiming, random variations in the index of refraction due to pressure and temperature changes, particles in the path of the laser and more can all cause distortion in the transferred data. Image processing techniques are concerned with estimating and correcting the distortion in these images, using tools such as spatial light modulators and deformable mirrors to mitigate atmospheric turbulence for the effective transfer of data.

The Image Processing group is also studying and developing the use of telescopes for long-range surveillance near the earth’s surface. This group is currently testing path lengths between one and five kilometres, and considerable research is still being done to improve image clarity over long distances. Currently, images captured by these telescopes are typically post-processed, leading to a several-hour delay before they can be effectively viewed. But researchers in Image Processing are working to change that: they are investigating the development of effective algorithms that would allow engineers to implement image correction in real-time.

Researchers with the Image Processing group are able to conduct their investigations both in the lab and in the field. Thanks to RMC’s unique position on Lake Ontario, researchers have access to a large, undisturbed expanse of open water on which to experiment with long-range paths over water; meanwhile, in the Optics Laboratory, they experiment with simulated atmospheric disturbances and the implementation of stochastic parallel gradient descent algorithms. Image Processing is a dynamic team whose research has exciting practical applications for all three military environments.


Dr. Don McGaughey
BSc, MSc, PhD, PEng
Professor and Research Head