R&D Firm Draper is Building a $50 Chip-Based Lidar

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Autonomous vehicles are expected to generate huge demand for lidar sensors. That’s why some well-known vendors are making moves to produce very small, very inexpensive, and purpose-built sensors that will appeal to automotive manufacturers. But they’re facing stiff competition from smaller players.

Latest among these players is Draper, a not-for-profit R&D company which is developing a solid-state lidar sensor expected to cost $50 when produced at scale. The sensor will have a range of 300 meters, an angular resolution of less than 0.1 degrees, and a scan rate of 20 frames per second.

Draper’s lidar is also slightly different from most solid-state lidar sensors on the market. Leveraging its background in integrated photonics, the company developed its sensor to use Micro-Electrical Mechanical Systems (MEMS). Where a majority solid-state technologies use an optical phased array to direct the emitted laser, MEMS technology uses microscopic moving mirrors.

MEMS-based sensors are not unique. Innoluce, for instance, has also promised a solid-state lidar built on the technology. However, the $50 price tag on Draper’s sensor is expected to undercut Innoluce’s announced price of $100.

If you consider that Draper describes itself as a company that “focuses on the design, development and deployment of advanced technological solutions for the world’s most challenging and important problems,” it won’t surprise you to learn that it intends for its sensor to be used in a lot more than autonomous vehicles. The company expects its lidar to be used in aerial drones and even, potentially, mobile phones.

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About Author

SPAR 3D Editor Sean Higgins produces SPAR 3D’s weekly newsletters for 3D-scanning professionals, and spar3d.com. Sean has previously worked as a technical writer, a researcher, a freelance technology writer, and an editor for various arts publications. He has degrees from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts and the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, where he studied the history of sound-recording technologies. Sean is a native of Maine and lives in Portland.

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