Unmanned Systems News

Insights: LightWare Discuss the Future of LiDAR

Published: 19 Apr 2021 by

Miniature LiDAR sensor developer LightWare discuss the key trends to expect to see in the world of LiDAR.

There was a time when machine capabilities were limited by their failure to “see”. Then LiDAR technology started gaining traction, and suddenly the gift of perception was within reach. Naturally, that changed the quality of information available to a significant degree – and as LiDAR technology advances in the inevitable way of progress, improvements from these hard-working lasers can be expected including:

  • Sensors getting smaller, lighter & more cost effective
  • A shift in data and value proposition
  • LiDAR and sensor fusion
  • On-Chip LiDAR
  • Greater applications

Driven to answer customer needs, LightWare predict a raise in demand for more data, requiring LiDAR to deliver faster processing in smaller, lighter and more cost-effective sensors.

Accuracy hinges on supplying 3D LiDAR visualizations not only of the immediate vicinity and surroundings, but of the greater area, too. This helps to create a holistic, rather than piecemeal, view, which gives a more precise account of density and geometry. Thus, the quest for greater accuracy also involves obtaining even more data than ever before. The more information users have to hand, the more informed their decisions. Given that the more readily available the technology, the more affordable it becomes, lower costs to for greater data is not impossible.

Big Data
One of the most significant influences here is big data. LightWare have seen this play an ever-growing role in how the world around us is managed, and the advent of the pandemic, especially, pushed it to the fore. Data has been instrumental in helping governments understand the spread of the coronavirus. LiDAR has contributed, and will continue to do so, through activities such as country mapping – an application which has also seen the technology save human lives by, for example, tracking and monitoring storms at sea. The geospatial data made available through LiDAR will continue to be an important part of institutional efforts to save and improve human lives.

LiDAR and sensor fusion
One proposed model sees both onboard imaging LiDAR and sensing LiDARs blended with other technologies (like photogrammetry) taking place in one flight, so that users can capture twice as much data in half the time. Efficiency, meanwhile, will receive a boost from factors like the addition of multi-sensor post-processing software, which drives data to the receiver with greater speed. Highly automated workflows are also advantageous here, along with a reduction in data latency and faster refresh cycles. Finally, with data acquisitions that serve more than one end user becoming the norm, and high-res imagery increasingly available off the shelf, LiDAR is set to become even more accessible.

On-Chip LiDAR
Right now LiDAR is used extensively by industries such as security, service delivery, aerial mapping, and autonomous vehicle navigation – but with Apple placing the technology in consumers’ hands (as part of its AR offering on iPhones), we can expect even more LiDAR applications to develop, achieving even greater prominence.

By way of example LiDAR could also be used by retailers. Because the technology generates detailed data points rather than photographs, there are no issues around privacy, and so retailers could use 3D maps that reveal consumer habits – showing where they stop, what draws their attention, what interests them – to better plan their stores and merchandise.

The ultimate takeout? LightWare are seeing the positive impact of the Internet of Things all around us, evident in greater efficiencies, more convenience, a better way of life and an improved approach to business. As we move forward, LiDAR will become an even more entrenched part of a tech-enabled world.

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