Hi to everyone at DIY Drones!

I don't know much about UAVs, my specialization is the design of laser products. I recently made a laser range finder by accident that might be useful in UAVs.

It started out as a project to design a new kind of chip that can measure events happening at the speed of light. Then, in order to prove that the chip worked properly, I had to make a test bed which turned into a laser range finder.

The chip has programmable performance settings so it can be used for either long range, high resolution or fast update rate measurements or some combination of these factors although not all at the same time. There is no minimum range, it works down to zero meters.

The best programmable settings give:

Best range >100m (to trees and grass)

Best resolution 1cm

Best update rate 100 readings per second 

You can see from the attachment that the range finder is quite small. The optics are made from acrylic so the whole thing is very light weight. It has an SPI connection to a host processor or it can have one already attached like in the picture. The laser is Class 1M. The optics are separate from the electronics so that they can be scanned with a servo or mounted on gimbals. It runs from 4.5V to 7.2V batteries and draws less than 200mA.

At the moment I'm looking to see if there is a market for something like this. I might consider producing small quantities for around $450. I'm not based in the USA so there are no export restrictions.

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What is the status of this product?



Hi Nick,

There has been very little response to this product from the UAV community so the project has kinda fallen off the table.

One or two comments from UAV enthusiasts point to the availability of altimeters based on air pressure that are more than adequate for most applications (and very cheap). I think that this has set the market perception with regard to price and anything that is more expensive is generally regarded as unnecessary.

We have also made an Arduino compatible version that is easier to integrate into some control platforms and we are still open to discussion and suggestions from anyone who thinks that there is a potential market for a laser altimeter, but right now we are working on other applications.


I'm very sorry to hear that, because this kind of product is exactly what I've been looking for !

I just stumbled on this forum thread, and I would be interested in buying one or two units for testing, can you send me your email address ?



For further information on this design you can contact Tracy at info@lightware.co.za.

I have interest in to purchase one altimeter for my little UAV. Please contact me. Regards

Hi Laser!

Nice project! What is the price of the arduino compatible module?




Thanks for comments, I'm glad you liked the project.

We didn't get enough interest in the Arduino kit to make it worth going into full scale production. Instead we're looking at offering an alternative kit (SF-02) which will be available in a few months time.

There's three main differences with the new kit:

1. It's going to be cheaper - US$250 for 50m (164ft) range and an update rate of >10 readings per second.

2. It's going to be much lighter - less than 60g (2.2oz) including all electronics and optics.

3. It's going to have lots of different interfaces - UARTs, digital I/O and analog outputs to make it easy to connect to any type of host processor.

We've finished all the testing and are just waiting for the optical tooling to be completed - the optical components are made from fiber reinforced plastics to keep the weight down. You can keep an eye on the lightware.co.za website or contact info@lightware.co.za for more information.


Any chance that you could share the arduino hw schematics? ;)

Regards and keep the good work! ;)


You can get schematics (Creative Commons license) of one of our other laser kits (DS00) from the website. The Arduino and the DS00 kits use the same controller chip (DS00VQ100) so the electronics is very similar.

There's two documents that you can download - the manual for the DS00 kit shows the circuit diagrams and gives a detailed explanation of how a time-of-flight laser range finder works. There's also a datasheet for the DS00VQ100 chip itself that shows you how to use the chip in your own LRF design.

The DS00VQ100 controller chip is the only part that's not a standard component but you can buy them from us using PayPal for US$35. Almost all the other components can be sourced from the big electronics component suppliers like RS Components. There are a few special parts, the laser and the APD, but if you get stuck we can also sell you some of those (we buy in bulk so get good prices).

If you're serious about making your own LRF then please feel free to contact info@lightware.co.za and I can help you avoid some of the pitfalls that make this such a difficult project. :-}

Hi Laser! 

I've sent you an email to info@lightware.co.za with some questions!



hi Laser Developer! 

Just to congratulate you on this impressive job! Very nicely done! :D

will I be able to build one for my copter? not so elaborated, a max distance of 60 meters is enough for me ;)


Hi JD, thanks for the kind comments.

Unfortunately, there's no such thing as a "not so elaborated" LRF! :} The main problem is trying to get components to work at really high speed. When you put these fast devices on a PCB they suddenly become noise generators that try to send messages to Mars instead of behaving like it says in the datasheet. ;O

Notwithstanding this, if you think that your electronics skills are up to the task then I'd be delighted to give friendly advice if you need it. But if you're a bit iffy about laying out multi-layer PCBs with impedance matched tracks then rather wait until the SF-02 kit is available and save yourself a lot of pain!

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