MEMS and Sensors

Velodyne introduces solid state lidar for robotics

11 December 2020
The Velarray M1600 lidar sensor is designed for the next generation of delivery robots and healthcare robots. Source: Velodyne

As robotics technology advances, so does the need for these machines to be aware of their surroundings to avoid obstacles or navigate effectively. This is especially true with last-mile delivery robots that may be traveling through busy streets or neighborhoods and touchless robots that may be operating in a packed hospital with other healthcare machines and humans.

To help develop the next generation of mobile robotic applications, Velodyne Lidar Inc. has rolled out a solid state lidar sensor designed to help robots operate autonomously and safely without human intervention.

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the use of delivery services worldwide for everything from food and medications to consumer and commercial products. Velodyne points to a recent report from Adobe Analytics that forecasts $184 billion will be spent online during the holiday period, a whopping 30% increase over 2019.

The market for delivery robots is heating up with several companies — both startups and large e-commerce vendors like Amazon — testing the machines as a last-mile alternative to traditional delivery options. Much like delivery drones, delivery robots would work in conjunction with traditional delivery vans and trucks but accelerating the speed in which packages are transported. Mobile robotics are also being used on university campuses and more localized areas to deliver food to students or workers.

With COVID-19, mobile robots have become vitally important to maintain social distancing for healthcare workers and other friends and family if someone is sick or in the hospital. These robots can also be used to take temperatures and used for check-in at clinics and doctor’s offices to avoid contact.

The Velarray M1600 lidar was developed using Velodyne’s micro-lidar array architecture (MLA) and through direct input from robotics and last-mile delivery companies. The company said the sensor can be deployed across multiple use cases by mounting the lidar to external robotics systems.

Velodyne’s M1600 lidar sensor provides real-time perception data for extended operations of robotics even up to 25 hours. The lidar offers near-field perception of up to 30 m and a 32° vertical field of view. This allows robots to navigate crowded urban areas or managed narrow corridors for delivery. Other environments where the sensor could be used in robots include warehouse, retail centers and industrial plants. Additionally, the sensor can withstand environmental conditions such as temperature, lighting and precipitation, Velodyne said.

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