SBIR Phase I: Resonant Light Detection and Ranging

Period of Performance: 01/01/2016 - 06/30/2016

$150K

Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Z-senz LLC
67 Oak Shade Rd Array
Gaithersburg, MD 20878
Firm POC, Principal Investigator

Abstract

This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project seeks to conduct research and development of a resonant light detection and ranging (R-LIDAR) distance sensing technology. This technology will advance the development of robotic and autonomous systems (RAS) by providing improved distance sensing performance and order-of-magnitude reductions in sensor size and cost. The commercial impact of this project is that it will enable development of RAS technologies that are expected to increase the productivity of many industries including mineral extraction, transport, manufacturing, construction, agriculture, and defense. RAS technologies are currently limited by the size, performance, and cost of existing light detection and ranging (LIDAR) technology, and users of these sensors are in need of improved solutions. Thus, the R-LIDAR system can be expected to make a significant commercial impact in a LIDAR sensor market that is expected to reach $625 million by 2020. Development of high-performance resonant optomechanical scanners for R-LIDAR systems would also benefit related disciplines that use beam scanning technologies such as microscopy, endoscopy, light machining, and displays. The intellectual merit of this project concentrates on the development of resonant light detection and ranging (R-LIDAR) technology based upon use of an optomechanical scanning element actuated at resonant frequency. Resonant scanners provide robust high-speed and high-performance operation that addresses limitations of incumbent light detection and ranging (LIDAR) distance sensors. The research aims of this project are to (1) develop and characterize key resonant scanner performance metrics such as scan stability, field-of-view, resolution, and frame rate and (2) integrate a resonant scanner element into a prototype R-LIDAR instrument to compare size, weight, and power specifications to incumbent LIDAR technology. R-LIDAR technology could provide an estimated ten- to hundredfold reduction in instrument size, fivefold increase in performance, and a tenfold decrease in instrument cost compared to currently available high-performance LIDAR distance sensors. These improvements will dramatically enhance the utility of distance sensing for unmanned and autonomous systems.