The most recognizable LIDAR system for the automotive market looks sort of like a salad plate-sized dome that sits atop the roof of the automobile.  The next smallest is about twice the size of a hockey puck. So you might find it hard to believe the Analog Garage is prototyping a LIDAR system for new markets that’s no bigger than a D-size battery? But it’s true.


So how did we do it? There is a lot of technological ingenuity that went into developing this system that unfortunately I’m not at liberty to share. But this much I can say: it’s impressive how many design constraints you can shed when you focus on solving a particular problem rather than just shrinking an existing system.


Let me give you an example. Drones can be great fun for hobbyists and video enthusiasts. Police use them for recon. Doctors are delivering medicines with UAVs. What they’re not very good at is landing. Which is a problem.


At the Analog Garage, we think LIDAR is a promising technology for overcoming drones’ landing difficulties. It’s very precise, works day or night and can operate in all sorts of weather. But traditional LIDAR systems are too big and expensive.


Once we took a step back, we realized we could strip away much of a traditional LIDAR system for this application, and make it small enough and cost-effective enough to help drones land. Because we don’t need the three-dimensional map of space that a full LIDAR system can generate. We just have a one-dimensional question that we need to answer here: how far is the drone from the ground below?


Our prototype system can answer that question. It can scan up to 40 meters, and is accurate to within 5 cm. Which drone designers tell us will give them the soft landing they are trying to achieve.


What other problems can a tailored LIDAR system solve? Share your thoughts below!