Low-Cost Compact MEMS Scanning LADAR System For Robotic Applications
The advancement of technology necessitated the development of a tiny MEMS scanning LADAR system for the autonomous navigation of future robots. Boeing Spectrolab went much further, making improvements to the system’s data processing system, laser system, and receiver sensitivity. As a result of its small size, low cost, and power efficiency, the LADAR system has become one of the most advantageous tools for the industry.
The world of robotics and its commercial applications is ever-changing. Robots now conduct a wide range of jobs and address a wide range of difficult automation duties.
They are becoming increasingly popular due to their capacity to function autonomously and their rapid adaptation to changing and unstructured surroundings. MEMS technology is becoming an important component of robotics since it enables machines to not only navigate in the region but also locate man-made objects situated miles away.
What is LADAR?
The “LADAR” abbreviation stands for “ Laser Detection and Ranging”. This system mixes radar & laser technologies. It produces a picture by scanning a highly repetitive laser rangefinder over a scene to build a 3D map with the texture of a radar image. It illuminates a target with a short-pulsed laser and then calculates the time it takes for the light to return.
It has a few kilometers of range. LADAR has numerous advantages:
- It can detect small and large items in the surface layer;
- It can gather 3D data in real time;
- It employs the results’ 3D visualization to identify and recognize potential targets;
- It can locate objects at night;
- It creates as much information on the targets as possible from all angles.
LADAR’s potential was tested by Army Research Lab (ARL) on an iRobot PackBot and within a cluttered environment. It also developed special 3D software helping to generate image data on a display of a computer running Windows.
Thanks to ARL’s collaboration with Spectrolab, one obtained a more advanced solution named MEMS Laser Projector. It is a small and portable LADAR imager that comes with the following features:
- Frame rate: 5-6 Hz;
- Image size: 256 (h) x 128 (v) pixels;
- Field of regard: 60º x 30º;
- Range: 20 m;
- Range resolution: 40 cm;
- Power consumption: 30 Watts
- Dimensions: 3.5x6x11 in;
- Laser type: eye-safe;
- Weight: 5.8 lb.
A brief optical pulse is sent out by the LADAR to calculate the distance to a target location, and a 2 axis MEMS mirror is used to establish the angular direction.
MEMS LADAR Future Prospects
Although the MEMS scanning LADAR system appears to be a feasible object detection option, its developers believe that a number of enhancements can be made in the future, including:
- Shrinking of the LADAR camera package;
- Reduction in the number of pc boards from 11 pc to 5 pc;
- ADC/FPGA board and Ethernet board will be combined into one main processor board, which will accommodate the Clock/Synthesizer Board and MEMS driver circuitry;
- Despite its current small size, the MEMS LADAR system will be even smaller in the future;
- It will be lighter in weight;
- Its price will be cut, making the system more affordable;
- Improved range capability (up to 50 m) and design;
- Laser power will be decreased;
- Receiver sensitivity will be increased;
- The MEMS LADAR system will be more power-efficient;
As you can see, laser scanning patterns such as LADAR are actively gaining market share. It is now one of the promising options that are suitable for a wide range of applications. This compact system will be further refined and upgraded in the future to improve the robustness of scanning component characteristics, and, consequently, a wider range of object research possibilities.