Inside Unmanned Systems

OCT-NOV 2016

Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.

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50 unmanned systems inside   October/November 2016 AIR AND LAND TECHNOLOGY FOCUS: LiDAR HOW LiDAR COLLECTS DATA LiDAR is a remote sensing method that relies on light, in the form of a pulsed laser, to measure ranges to the Earth. Traditionally, LiDAR data is collected via an airplane or a helicopter. There are two main types of LiDAR: topographic and bathymetric. Topographic uses a near-infrared laser to map land. Bathymetric uses a green light that penetrates water to measure seafloor and riverbed elevations. So how does it work? The laser is pointed at a target at the ground and the beam of light is sent that is reflected by the surface. To measure range, a sensor records the reflected light. Combining these ranges with position and orientation data makes it possible to create point clouds. Each point in the cloud has 3D spatial coordinates, all corresponding to a point on the Earth's surface where the laser pulse was reflected. Source: NOAA GPS positions or the IMU might drift. When you stitch it all together it's difficult to determine the positon of the car. Combining localization with artificial intelligence features for tagging is very difficult to pull off, but we're working on putting that into production by crowd sourcing a spatial- ly consistent map that might be updated every day or every week." Using LiDAR to create maps for driverless cars is already happening, Romano said, with many car manufacturers researching the tech- nology. Harris is working with some of these manufacturers to develop what he describes as the next level of navigation. These high defini- tion navigation systems do much more than tell cars how to get from point A to point B. These systems tell cars what obstructions might be there so they can safely complete their journey. UAS While some UAS are already f lying missions with LiDAR, there aren't many with this ca- pability just yet. Pulse Aerospace is one of the companies that offers LiDAR, integrating the technology onto its Vapor 35 helicopter drone and 55 helicopter drones. Recently, CEO Aaron Lessig said he's noticed more demand from surveying and engineering clients for a LiDAR solution. Why? They already understand the benefits LiDAR provides—from more dense, better data to a reduction in the processing time required to make business decisions. "They're very comfortable with the work- f lows and the data outputs associated with LiDAR," Lessig said. "It's opened up a new market for traditional surveying companies because they're able to take that level of de- tail and drive it down to smaller applications. They're looking to take data traditionally col- lected on an annual or quarterly basis and drive that down to a daily collection analysis and use case. We are getting to see a lot of ex- citing use cases for LiDAR. The market is very hungry for this type of technology." Aeroscout CEO Christoph Eck, who invested in a small LiDAR solution from Riegl for his plat- form, has used the sensor to complete a variety of missions, integrating it with an IMU GPS solu- tion on board. The Switzerland-based company has mapped power lines in the Swiss Alps and other areas that aren't easy to get to by foot or car. Now electricity companies can see if any trees have fallen on their lines, if vegetation is causing problems or if new buildings are too close. When "IT'S GOING TO CHANGE everything—reducing power, weight and size. These can be very small devices. Before they were hundreds of pounds and now there's research going on that has these devices smaller than a penny." Mark Romano, senior product manager, Harris Geospatial Solutions Photos courtesy of Merrick & Co. and Ford

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