Optical flow velocity measurements are important for understanding the complex behavior of flows. Although a huge variety of methods exist, they are either based on a Doppler or a time-of-flight measurement principle. Doppler velocimetry evaluates the velocity-dependent frequency shift of light scattered at a moving particle, whereas time-of-flight velocimetry evaluates the traveled distance of a scattering particle per time interval. Regarding the aim of achieving a minimal measurement uncertainty, it is unclear if one principle allows to achieve lower uncertainties or if both principles can achieve equal uncertainties. For this reason, the natural, fundamental uncertainty limit according to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle is derived for Doppler and time-of-flight measurement principles, respectively. The obtained limits of the velocity uncertainty are qualitatively identical showing, e.g., a direct proportionality for the absolute value of the velocity to the power of and an indirect proportionality to the square root of the scattered light power. Hence, both measurement principles have identical potentials regarding the fundamental uncertainty limit due to the quantum mechanical behavior of photons. This fundamental limit can be attained (at least asymptotically) in reality either with Doppler or time-of-flight methods, because the respective Cramér–Rao bounds for dominating photon shot noise, which is modeled as white Poissonian noise, are identical with the conclusions from Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.
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