At first glance, the NaviPack seems common enough. It’s a small, $300 2D LiDAR unit, much like other low-cost LiDAR sensors on the market. Like its competitors, the NaviPack is also designed for use with SLAM algorithms. (SLAM, if you don’t remember, is the technology that enables a drone or robot to map and navigate unfamiliar environments autonomously.)
NaviPack sets itself apart by including an integrated SLAM module in its base. Each unit comes pre-loaded with the hardware and algorithms you’ll need to enable quick SLAM functionality in the device of your choice.
Where the other 2D LiDAR sensors on the market are less expensive, they require some knowledge of robotics to get your SLAM working. NaviPack, for a small price increase, promises truly plug-and-play SLAM.
“It is super easy to use,” the company says on its Indiegogo website. “With the built-in SLAM module, it will start working immediately after plugging into your devices – scanning the environment, building a detailed map, and enabling auto-moving capability.”
As for specs—though I bet these specs are somewhat beside the point— the sensor boasts a 360° field of view, 4000 points per second, a resolution of 1 mm, and accuracy at 1-2% of distance. It scans out to 15 meters. It connects through serial port, USB, or Wifi.
NaviPack includes a pretty extensive sounding SDK (software development kit), that enables easy interfacing with your newly autonomous device. The SDK includes functions for independent navigation, manual mapping, positioning navigation, map management, and more–for drones and ground-based devices alike. You can also use it to combine NaviPack’s LiDAR data with data from other sensors. All the information generated by the NaviPack can be viewed on a tablet or smartphone.
Even Easier Options
The company also offers a version of the NaviPack built with a 3D time of flight camera. This SLAM-enabled unit offers lower accuracy and range than the LiDAR unit. However, it will set you back only half the cost: $150.
Determined to offer everything, the company is also offering a basic robot for users to build their projects on top of. The NaviPanel is a three-wheeled platform with five ultrasonic sensors and a NaviPack LiDAR SLAM module built in. If the NaviPack is a plug and play solution for robotic SLAM, the NaviPanel is the even easier turnkey option. Unbox and go.
Whether there’s a market for a 2D LiDAR unit that provides pre-coded SLAM (rather than one that allows enterprising robotics and scanning professionals to design and tweak their own projects) still remains to be seen. If you’re a believer in the invisible hand of the free market, the Indiegogo fundraising campaign for this range of products will soon supply an answer.