For only $100, engineers and integrators can now purchase LiDAR systems for deployment on vehicles, robots, and drones, thanks to the release of the Velabit sensor from Velodyne (San Jose, CA, USA; www.velodynelidar.com).
Revealed at CES 2020, the Velabit sensor employs an eye-safe 903 nm Class 1 laser and has a 2.4 x 2.4 x 1.38-inch footprint, which is smaller than a deck of cards. It has 100 m range, 60° horizontal field of view (FOV), 10° vertical FOV, and includes an Ethernet interface offering Gigabit Ethernet (GigE) support.
The new LiDAR sensor has no mechanical friction. Any bearing within the system is a non-contact, infinite lifespan bearing. It does not utilize microelectromechanical systems, but rather operates via metamaterials activated by electronics. The Velabit also features integrated processing via a proprietary platform.
“The Velabit leverages our internal ASICs,” says Mike Jellen, Chief Commercial Officer at Velodyne. “Over the last four years, through the Velodyne semiconductor program, we’ve developed a range of ASICs that have not only LiDAR-specific functionality for driving the lasers and handling receipt and detection of the light, but also host processing functions directly in the silicate.”
Engineered as an automotive-grade component for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and for use with autonomous vehicles, Velodyne also envisions the Velabit for use in infrastructure applications, such as smart city and security, for instance, covering street intersections to monitor for pedestrians caught in crosswalks, and in 3D mapping and infrastructure assessments, among other uses.
“Before the Velabit there was no suitable small and lightweight lidar for small unmanned aerial vehicles and unmanned ground vehicles performing obstacle avoidance or mapping,” says Alberto Lacaze, president of commercial and defense solutions company, Robotic Research (Gaithersburg, MA, USA; www.roboticresearch.com). “The Velabit fills a much needed space in the market and is currently in a class of its own.”
Multiple Velabit units can be synchronized via Velodyne’s Vela software. Jellen says the company will likely sell the new LiDAR sensor as both a standalone unit and as part of a package solution with Vela. Nikon (Tokyo, Japan; www.nikon.com) began production of the Velabit in Asia in 2019, Veoneer (Stockholm, Sweden; www.veoneer.com) will begin production in 2020, and Hyundai Mobis (Seoul, Korea; bit.ly/HYN-MBS) will produce the Velabit in 2021. Other production partnerships have been established but not publicly announced.
Velabit becomes the second, recent release of a small form-factor, affordable LiDAR camera on the marketplace after Intel (Santa Clara, CA, USA; www.intel.com) in December 2019 announced its L515 camera.