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Modern LIDAR Systems: Sensing for Every Industry

-Tony Pirc, Applications Engineer, Analog Devices

Recent advances in technology have unlocked unprecedented modalities of capturing the physical world in digital form. One of those modalities is light detection and ranging, or LIDAR. Many applications and industries have adopted LIDAR technology; the applications range from geographical survey to 3D structural mapping and object recognition. Industries include manufacturing automation, safety, agriculture, and many others. All these applications and industries have leveraged LIDAR to drive down costs, create safer environments, improve efficiencies, or even do things not previously possible. To better understand the impact of LIDAR, it is important to understand what this technology is, what was used before it, and what LIDAR allows us to actually measure and, more importantly, do.

At the most fundamental level, LIDAR is a system that bounces light off objects to detect them. This boils down to a transmitting portion of the system that emits light, and a receiving portion that measures the reflected light’s time of return. This happens to be exactly how traditional radar systems work, with one very important difference—the wavelength of LIDAR systems is on the order of ten thousand times shorter than the shortest radar wavelengths.

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