LW20 micro LiDAR with big features
Launch date - January 2017
The LW20 was borne out of an idea presented by a member of our design team in 1984. We were making portable survey equipment for mining applications and our mechanical engineer came up with an idea for a really small product that would be able to operate in the harsh conditions found underground. The rest of the team were not impressed by this concept because it was impossibly small for the electronic components available at that time. The idea has been waiting for more than 30 years for the technology to catch up.
Jump forward to 2015 when we started to design an IP67 rated enclosure for a lightweight, drone laser altimeter. Exciting results were coming out of another project that had successfully proved that it was possible to make a laser sensor that could operate in extremely noisy environments. For a LiDAR, the term "noisy" means that there are lots of other signals in the area caused either by bright lights, the sun or other lasers. Being able to integrate this noise resistant technology into a small laser sensor would result in a very special kind of product if we could figure out how to do it.
A year later we had thrown out the metaphorical laser design book and challenged every well understood element of our earlier designs. The final solution met all our specifications in terms of size (<20 cc), weight (<20 g), range (>100 m) and update rate (362 / sec) but these are weren't the most interesting features of the LW20. The real excitement came from the things that we didn't know were possible. For example, the LW20 can can identify its own laser signature even when aimed at the sun or when surrounded by any number of other laser sensors.
The practical application of these abilities comes from our view of a future world in which laser sensors are used on all types of autonomous vehicles, including drones and cars. With numerous laser signals flying through the air at the same time there is a very high chance that a sensor will pick up the laser signals from another vehicle, confusing the timing circuitry and potentially causing an accident. Laser coding and decoding technology in the LW20 prevents this from happening and for even greater safety, the LW20 doesn't make mistakes when aimed at street lights or the sun, sources of strong IR illumination that can interfere with laser signals, especially at sunrise or sunset.
We hope that you love the amazing little LW20 as much as we do and that it helps you to solve important problems whether for your own benefit or for the benefit of all humanity.