February 23, 2016

Velodyne LiDAR's Puck LITE: A Lightweight Sensor for UAVs


Today at the International LiDAR Mapping Forum 2016, Velodyne LiDAR announced their new sensor, the Puck LITE.

“It’s an evolution of the previous Puck,” said David Oroshnik, director of technical solutions at Velodyne LiDAR, in conversation with SPAR. “We took 240 grams out of it, which is very important, primarily for aerial mapping.”

Oroshnik explained that the Puck LITE, with its weight of 590 grams to the original VLP-16 Puck’s 830 grams, is designed to appeal to the growing drone market. “Because drones—the ones that run on battery—are limited by their duration. You can only carry enough battery to get maybe around 20 minutes. For every ounce of extra weight or so many grams, that’s going to make your drone work harder and drain your battery sooner. So having a lighter sensor will give you a greater duration.”

Depending on the aircraft, he said, this could make a very significant difference to the time spent working. On a lightweight fixed wing, the difference would be large. For gas-powered UAVs, he explained, the difference in duration would be less noticeable.

The Puck LITE sensor’s reduced weight has other benefits. For one, Oroshnik told me, it is light enough to mount on smaller UAVs than its sibling. And, though the Puck LITE is designed to meet the needs of the UAV market, he guessed that the sensor will likely find fans in users of mapping backpacks.

“There are a handful of companies putting together mapping backpacks that will have one or more of our sensors on them. While 240 grams doesn’t seem like a lot, every gram or ounce matters when you’re walking around with this thing, however long you’re going to walk around with it.”

Beyond changes in weight, Orishnik said, the Puck LITE is virtually identical to the original VLP-16 Puck. The loss in weight comes with no loss in performance.

Oroshnik told me that the new Puck LITE is an example of Velodyne’s strategy of tweaking their core technologies to create sensors that appeal to specific use cases. The LiDAR Puck LITE is designed to be light for UAV use, the HDL-32E is designed with a 40-degree field of view that suits robotics applications, and the Solid-State Hybrid Ultra PUCK Auto LiDAR is designed with a longer range of 200 meters to meet the needs of autonomous vehicles, and so on.

Velodyne is now accepting orders for the Puck LITE, with initial production scheduled for April. For more on the new Puck LITE, find the company exhibiting at ILMF.

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