Our first project as FECORE was to perform a laser observation on Balaton Lake in Hungary. The project was in the planning stages previous to the founding of FECORE, and the people involved participated in what became an FECORE project.
Lake Balaton was the site for two previous laser observations. The FECORE test was to be 10 times further than any previous efforts. In order to make this possible, FECORE had to design and build a laser aiming device. It was four months from choosing the project until the observations were made. The majority of work in those four months was the building and testing of the Super Accurate Laser Aiming Device, or SALAD. It functioned well because we were able to find the observers at 8, 12 and 21 km at night. But it did require a lot of time to locate the target.
So, the creator of the SALAD, President Mike Cavanaugh, decided to integrate GPS (Ground Positioning System – we find cell tower data more reliable than satellites) coordinates into the aiming. This system is called Terrestrial Laser Targeting, or TLT.
With the TLT system, the location of the observer is placed on a map application. Then the location of the SALAD is placed on the map, the SALAD will move to point at the observer with a high degree of accuracy. The observer can usually see the laser within five minutes of entering the locations.
The next step in improving the SALAD will be the SALAD Version 2. It will be the same instrument but the structural parts will be laser cut to provide better precision and repeatability. We are fortunate that all of the materials will be donated by a private company, just as the first SALAD was. When SALAD v2 is finished, FECORE will be able to conduct laser observations on multiple continents with many additional participants.