LiDAR sensor enables 3D detection of distances
A 3D LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensor equipment that measures distance between the equipment and the object from the round-trip travelling time of the pulse laser that is projected to the object has been developed by Panasonic. The sensor accurately measures the direction of and distance to objects with a wide angle of view, which is critical for autonomous operation of mobile robots.
Employing Panasonic’s propriety laser-scanning technology, this 3D LiDAR is capable of scanning the laser as wide as up to 60° vertically and 270° horizontally to achieve stable operation of autonomous robots. Sample shipments will start in January 2018.
The wide scanning angle of the newly developed 3D LiDAR helps the detection of objects on the ground precisely as well as the roughness of the ground surface. In addition, the range of scanning angles and the resolution can be tailored precisely by adjusting the rotation angle and speed of the mirrors in the system. This feature gives users accuracy and flexibility to choose the most appropriate conditions for the measurement depending on their usage. That will facilitate the wide-spread use of autonomous robots that navigate inside or outside facilities with moving objects around, including people.
Sudhanshu Kapoor, Business Development Manager with Panasonic Industry Europe, said: "Panasonic's 3D LiDAR is one big step forward in the existing LiDAR ecosystem, with best-in-class wide angle detection range of vertical field of view of 60°, and distance detection of 50m. Our 3D LiDAR will come up with IP65 protection and M12 plug, hence is capable of withstanding all types of outdoor conditions. Therefore, Panasonic's innovative 3D LiDAR is a big value addition in the field of autonomous navigation. With our 3D-LiDAR, we expect to collaborate together with customers to develop applications for industrial forklifts, AGVs, mobile robotics, construction and smart buildings ecosystem."
Autonomous robots need to detect the condition of the ground as well as the objects around them since they will be operated inside and/or outside facilities with many moving objects including people. Conventional 3D LiDARs that are designed for autonomous driving of automobiles cannot scan the laser in a wide range of vertical angles. Therefore, they cannot precisely detect the conditions of the ground. For this reason, conventional LiDARs need to be combined with other sensors that can detect the ground condition. This results in complicated configuration and the design of the autonomous robots. Suitable applications are autonomous robots such as delivery robots, fork lifts, agricultural machinery, construction machinery and security systems.
Panasonic’s new 3D LiDAR has the following features:
- Wide view angles: 60° in vertical and 270° in horizontal directions
- Variable detection settings for viewing angles and resolution in vertical
- Accurate detection under strong sunlight
1. Wide view angles: 60° in vertical and 270° in horizontal directions
Existing 3D LiDARs cannot detect objects around them with wide view angles especially for the vertical direction. Panasonic developed the laser-scanning technologies utilising its proprietary design of optical system and motor controlling technology to move the mirror that have been developed for the mass production of optical disk drives. The 3D LiDAR employs a single laser and moving mirror for the detection. Laser light travels the same optical path in the original optical system. The mirror moves toward two different directions by two motors. The single-path design and wide angle of the mirror-move enable wide view angles with 60° in vertical and 270° in horizontal directions. The 3D LiDAR does not require any additional sensors for the detection of the objects around including those on the ground, which makes the detection system in autonomous robots very simple.
Picture 1: Details of laser-scanning system in Panasonic’s 3D LiDAR
2. Variable detection settings for viewing angles and resolution in vertical
Autonomous robots are required to detect the objects in the specified area. For example, autonomous robots do not need to sense the objects in details when they move on flat surface with less objects in the area. The object detection sensor can be scanned at relatively high speed according to the robot’s speed. On the other hand, in an area with many moving people or objects, it requires high sensing technologies with a wide angle of view. Furthermore, the sensor needs to examine the details of the object’s surface that has been detected. Panasonic’s new 3D LiDAR can easily vary the detection settings thanks to its unique laser-scanning technologies employed. Stable and time-effective operations of autonomous robots can be achieved by choosing the most suitable detection settings depending on the conditions of the areas where they will be used.
Picture 2: Examples of laser scanning by Panasonic’s 3D LiDAR
3. Accurate detection even under strong sunlight
Autonomous robots also require the accuracy in detecting objects under strong sunlight. By making the return light follow the same path as the emitted laser, Panasonic has successfully reduced the noise induced by bright sunlight. As a result, the newly developed 3D LiDAR can be operated with high accuracy even under the light intensity of 100,000 lux that corresponds to strong sunlight in summer-time.
Picture 3: Example of detection image under strong sunlight: left image by camera; right image by Panasonic’s 3D LiDAR