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LIDAR-Lite by PulsedLight

$82,313 raised of $53,000 goal

0 days left

Campaign Ended

155% FUNDED! We reached our goal on March 31st, 2014.

LIDAR-Lite: A New Benchmark for Optical Distance Measurement Sensors

The founders of PulsedLight, Bob Lewis and Dennis Corey, recognized that there was an unmet need for an optical distance measurement sensor technology that addressed applications where a very small, low-power, high performance, reduced cost optical ranging sensor was required, such as robotics and UAVs. So in 2011 they co-founded PulsedLight, LLC in Bend, Oregon to bring their vision for a new optical ranging sensor technology to market.

After more than two years of work, we are ready to introduce our technology in the form of the LIDAR-Lite, a very small form factor, optical distance measurement sensor capable of measuring out to 40 meters using inexpensive, off-the-shelf, electro-optical components.

First, a Little Science

All optical ranging sensors use the principle of “Time-of-Flight” (ToF) to calculate distance to a target.  Simply put, ToF calculates the time it takes for a signal, light in this case, to travel from the sensor to a target and back to determine distance.

Pretty simple in concept…

But, as the target gets farther away or you want to measure distance in bright light or against non-reflective targets, the transmitted beam has to be more powerful and/or collimated. In other words, you need a laser and a power source to support the laser.

Because light travels really, really fast, 299,792,458 meters per second or 1mm in 3 picoseconds, you need a very precise clock to measure the signal’s round trip. And in order to reliably detect the return signal, the detector needs to be very sensitive.

All of this, very collimated light sources (lasers), very sensitive detectors and super precise clocks are the reason even the least expensive optical range finders can cost hundreds of dollars.

PulsedLight’s Solution

We have created a series of new innovations which applies edge based signal reconstruction methods, similar to that used in radar, to optical rangefinders and also incorporates signal correlation processing to perform a "signature match" between a captured transmit signal record and the received signal.  This specialized signal processing method enables a single-chip processing implementation using programmable logic chips suitable for low cost, ultra-small optical distance measurement sensor applications.

This approach allows us to:

  • Recognize and process a very weak return signal.
  • Quickly and accurately calculate distance without having to directly measure it real-time. In other words, we don’t need a super precise clock to make it all work. (Our acquisition time is 0.05 second and measurement accuracy for the LIDAR-Lite is 5%.)
  • Implement our core technology in a single, system-on-chip solution, enabling sensors that have the lowest complexity hardware, and size.
  • Create a sensor that is easily reconfigurable via software control.

In simple language, our technology extracts the maximum performance out of the emitters and detectors used. In the LIDAR-Lite we use components similar to those found in a TV remote control system to create a sensor that can measure distances out to 40 meters in a module that measures 51mm long X 30mm wide X 39mm tall.

Our processor-based approach also means that the modules can be easily configured under software control to operate in different modes; proximity detection, distance or velocity measurement. Modes can even be changed “on-the-fly”. Pun Intended….

The experience gained from developing long-range sensors for industrial and consumer products has been applied to this design allowing us to maximize its performance. The resulting tests of early prototypes, including flying it on a UAV, have been very promising.

The beam width of the LIDAR-Lite as delivered is 1.5°. This narrow beam provides long-range performance and also enables better target selectivity than an ultrasonic sensor. The optics can be removed increasing the beam width to about 6° and reducing range to approximately 5 meters. This broad, short-range beam is great for applications, such as proximity detection.

Operating from a 5vdc power source and drawing only 100 milliamps peak power when it is taking a measurement and under 10 milliamps when idle, the LIDAR-Lite is ideally suited for projects running from battery sources where low power consumption is critical.

The I2C communications interface allows multiple modules to be connected as slaves to a common communications bus.

The combination of attributes found in the LIDAR-Lite- high performance, low cost, small size, light-weight, low power consumption, and dynamic configurability along with I2C communications and addressing - means that it becomes practical to install multiple sensors on a project with minimal weight and power penalties. For more details, check out the LIDAR-Lite specification and data sheet.

If we are able to get this kind of performance from an LED, why aren’t we offering a laser-based LIDAR-Lite 100? Eye safety… Installing a laser would be the next logical step. However, before you can sell a laser-based device, even a simple laser pointer, it’s necessary to obtain eye safety certification. This takes additional time and delays the delivery of our technology to you. But, by supporting our campaign on Dragon Innovation today, you move us closer to being able to offer this capability in the near future.

We have a developed a revolutionary optical sensing technology that can be used in a variety of applications. We are excited to see what you will do with it and your support enables us to realize our goal of making our technology widely available to a large community of creative people. Thank you in advance for your support.


Optical Distance Measurement Sensors

Missed out on the campaign, but still want a LIDAR-Lite? Head over to our store and place your order now. Thanks to everyone for their support!

Our sensor technology is ideally suited for any project requiring very compact, low power, high performance distance measurement sensors, such as drones, robots, or unmanned vehicles.

PulsedLight’s novel signal processing technology enables us to offer a low-cost optical distance measurement solution with performance comparable to systems costing hundreds of dollars.

“PulsedLight takes distance range finding from the expensive, closed solution that it is today to small, cheap and open. This is tremendously appealing to us at 3D Robotics, as is the potential this has for getting us to truly autonomous UAVs without relying solely on GPS.” - Chris Anderson, CEO of 3D Robotics



PulsedLight, LLC Bend, OR

About Us


Bob Lewis - Co-Founder, Technology Mastermind

Bob has over 30 years’ experience in electro-optical product development, design engineering and business management. He created the IP that powers our technology.


Dennis Corey - Co-Founder, Head of Business Development and Operations

Dennis has over 25 years of successful business ownership, management, marketing, and business development experience.


What other hardware do I need to make the sensor work?

You’ll need a microcontroller, such as an Arduino, Raspberry Pi or BeagleBoard, that have an I2C communications interface. You’ll also need a 5vdc power source. Most robotics projects, UAV autopilot systems, and hobby microcontrollers have this communication and power I/O available. If you simply want to experiment with the modules and connect them directly to a PC, the BusPirate is a great option.

Is there any special software required?

Controlling the sensors is pretty straightforward. There are several read/write registers in the sensor that allow you to control different operating parameters, take measurements and read data. Using software native to your chosen microcontroller and following standard I2C communication protocols, commands can be issued to configure the sensor and initiate an acquisition. We’ll be providing control register information and sample code online. We also hope that our community of users will improve on what we’ve done and come up with new code for applications that we haven’t even thought of.

Are there any eye safety concerns with these sensors?

No. We’re using IR Light Emitting Diodes (LED) for the emitters. Unlike a laser, LED’s have a more diffuse and lower power light output. Because of our technology’s increased sensitivity, we are able to use these safer, lower power devices and still achieve performance comparable to laser based systems costing much more.

Wow! So if I replaced the LED with a Laser I could get way better performance?

Well…yes.  We know that a laser installed on this board could range to 100m.  However, even a low power laser isn’t necessarily eye safe and could cause irreparable eye injury if used improperly.  Also our LED optics aren’t optimized to work with a laser.  While swapping the LED for a laser is tempting, it is something we strongly discourage.  Creating a laser-based, eye-safe system is something we plan to do and with your support on this campaign we’ll be much closer to making that a reality.

Will two or more LIDAR-Lites operating side-by-side interfere with each other?

Thanks to our unique signal processing, two or more LIDAR-Lites operating side-by-side won't interfere with each other. Because you know that your project needs more than one!

I'm interested in a special bulk pricing. What should I do?

We're happy to work with anyone interested in special bulk pricing. Click the "Have a question? Ask The Entrepreneurs!" link below to contact us directly.

What are the Terms & Conditions for this project?

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