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Lidar: Navigating Trade-Offs

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DOUGLAS FARMER, SENIOR EDITOR [email protected]

DOUGLAS FARMER, SENIOR EDITORLight detection and ranging (lidar) technology these days relies on more than one set of sensors. It often combines multiple images in an instant, in autonomous vehicles and a variety of security applications, judging not only distance but the nature of a threat or obstacle. This information can be collected from all along the spectrum, from the visible to LWIR, throughout the course of an event — such as when traveling along a roadway — to inform AI functionality.

In our cover story in this edition, Pablo García-Gómez, Jordi Riu, and Santiago Royo relate that, while lidar has proven to be reliable commercially, to avoid false findings in the field of view, lidar technology must be used in conjunction with other sensing modalities to generate an accurate image. In some cases, lidar information is utilized alongside data gleaned from radar and thermal or RGB cameras. This requires data fusion, which can be adjusted to the software algorithm made available by the user and can accommodate all sorts of conditions in the field, such as darkness and bad weather.

The authors point to how lidar technology has matured, with many systems designers opting for solid-state devices, which require less reliance on moving components that could potentially require maintenance or increase the likelihood of errors in detection. These systems are useful in such applications as robotics, cranes, detection of humans on railroad tracks, and even in crowd analytics. Read more here.

The possibilities and inherent limitations of lidar sensors are also the subject of the “EPIC Insights” column in this issue. Sana Amairi-Pyka of EPIC notes that information related to distance and resolution can be processed on a chip, requiring minimal moving components, and these chips can be easily mass-produced and installed in many parts of a vehicle. For this reason, companies such as Audi have made lidar technology standard in their high-end models.

But Amairi-Pyka also points out that uniform standards are lacking for the technology. Nor is there a system that on its own could monitor every driving situation. Therefore, a variety of entities and companies within the EPIC network are working to devise solutions for testing, packaging, data fusion, and standardization to provide compatibility throughout the marketplace. Learn about these developments here.

Elsewhere in the magazine, Nicola Maguolo and Simone Mazzucato discuss the importance of laser marking in manufacturing, particularly in the case of unique labeling of medical instruments, to monitor the instruments’ location and use, in accordance with regulations in both Europe and the U.S. The authors outline a process called ultrafast direct laser writing, which uses short-pulse lasers at high repetition to generate a permanent black marking that does not hinder the instruments’ effectiveness or present danger to a user or patient. Explore these innovations here.

Enjoy the issue!

EuroPhotonics
Spring 2021
Editorial

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