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Latest Issue
Spring 2021

Lidar: Navigating Trade-Offs

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!
Mike Wheeler
As editor-in-chief, Michael Wheeler oversees Photonics Media's editorial operations — spanning print, web, and podcasts. He also serves as editor of Vision Spectra, chronicling advancements in the rapidly expanding machine vision/inspection sector.
Dan McCarthy
Senior editor Dan McCarthy manages editorial content and production for Photonics Spectra. An award-winning writer and editor, he has communicated the progress and practical value of advanced technologies for over two decades.
Doug Farmer
Senior Editor Douglas Farmer has been a journalist for nearly 20 years, winning awards for health and education reporting. He has a master's degree in journalism from Ball State University. He is editor of EuroPhotonics and BioPhotonics magazines.
Sarah Weiler
As Webinar & Social Media Coordinator, Sarah Weiler organizes and produces all Photonics Media webinars and manages social media content. With a background in writing and editing, she also contributes to the print publications.
Valerie Coffey
Science writer Valerie C. Coffey holds a bachelor’s degree in physics and a master’s in astronomy. She has covered optics, photonics, physics, and astronomy for a variety of industry and academic publications since 2000.
Hank Hogan
Contributing Editor Hank Hogan holds a Bachelor of Science degree in physics from the University of Texas at Austin. He worked in the semiconductor industry and now writes about science and technology.
Marie Freebody
Contributing Editor Marie Freebody is a freelance science and technology journalist with a master’s degree in physics and a concentration in nuclear astrophysics from the University of Surrey in England.
Farooq Ahmed
Farooq Ahmed has covered the physical and biological sciences for over a decade. He has a bachelor's degree in biochemistry from Brown University and a Master of Fine Arts degree in writing from Columbia University.
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