When developing lidar sensors – size (and cost) have always been an obstacle. Even the most advanced compact lidars, flash lidars and solid state sensors are not that compact. Sure, they are better than the massive, mechanical lidars – but what if you want to apply lidar to something smaller than a car?
Voyant Photonics, a New York-based startup thinks that they have a solution that might revolutionize lidar applications: a chip-based lidar that is as tiny as it is versatile. Approximately the size of a fingernail, the chip promises to have comparable performance to mechanical and micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) systems.
Rather than scaling down internal components of a solid state lidar, Voyant Photonics has been pushing forward silicon photonics technology to create a lidar “chip.” A laser beam is directed across the scene without the need for any moving parts, so it can be significantly smaller than other existing lidars.
Silicon photonics is an evolving technology in which data is transferred among computer chips by optical rays. Optical rays can carry far more data in less time than electrical conductors. Traditonally used for communications applications, Voyant Photonics’ approach is reportedly the first to apply silicon photonics to lidar.