Lidar System – 3D, Nonmechanical

Researchers have combined 3D flash and beam-scanning laser light sources to create a 3D, nonmechanical system. According to the researchers, the system can measure the distance of poorly reflective objects in the field of view (FOV) and automatically track their motion — a capability not found in conventional lidar that will allow autonomous vehicles to drive more safely.

Most lidar systems scan the laser beam using moving parts such as motors, which makes them bulky, expensive, and unreliable. Due to the small amount of light reflected by poorly reflective objects, flash lidar, a nonmechanical lidar system that simultaneously illuminates and evaluates the distances of objects in the FOV with a single beam, cannot measure the distances of these objects. Flash systems are also typically large due to the external lenses and optical elements required to generate the flash beam.

Thanks to the new system, robots and vehicles can navigate dynamic environments without losing sight of poorly reflective objects like black metallic cars.

The researchers created dually modulated photonic-crystal lasers to power the lidar system (DM-PCSELs). The DM-PCSEL light source includes a flash source capable of illuminating a wide, 30° × 30° FOV and a beam-scanning source capable of providing spot illumination with 100 narrow laser beams. 

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