Found cheapest-ever LIDAR! Seems great for UAV use!


Electro-Optical devices sells kits and spare parts to build a real, far-ranged LIDAR ranger, such as: nanosecond timer, transmitter module (high voltage laser power supply included on-board), receiver module (APD photodiode, PIN photodiode), controller, laser diodes (power 10W - 75W).

The price of the cheapest kit ERC2-KIT is $ 429 , but you can get even cheaper if you buy just the modules and assemble it yourself.

The boards are really small and are thus ideally suited to fit an UAV plane which includes a rotating mirror system and a capable memory onboard.  

Maybe there are some restricting laws about the power of the laser? Anyone knows?

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Comment by Dano on July 14, 2011 at 7:29am
The 10w laser is not eyes safe and with a ranging error of +/- 1 foot for the $ I would pass on it.
Comment by Chris Paulson on July 14, 2011 at 11:02am
I agree with iangl on this one, I think this looks great for UAV applications. It's not great for takeoff and landing, but imagine the possibilities with terrain mapping and terrain following with this system. In terms of eye safety, don't assume that a 75W laser diode isn't eye safe. This laser pulses for only 15 nanoseconds, which is 1.125 microjoules of energy or less depending on laser rise and fall times. In addition, pulsed laser diodes have large fast axis divergence. Even when collimated well, the divergence of the beam will still be a few degrees. If this were operating about 100 feet off the ground, the energy per unit area is very very low.
Comment by Ritchie on July 14, 2011 at 11:22am
It might be good for fixed wing but rotorcraft the best is still $400 from the robovacuum. Plus you get all the spares from the vacuum too.
Comment by iangl on July 14, 2011 at 11:40am

As I read the datasheets, it appears that you can get the complete ranging system by getting just the ECH-1B which is a chronometer measuring time between a start signal (generated, 5V compatible with TX module) and  an input signal (received from photodiode), the ETX-10A (which has HV laser driver) and the RX-5XF. This should be the cheapest option; communication is done via TTL compatible protocol, so it should be Arduino-friendly. Oh and please note that the mininum range stated is about 50m, even if the ECH-1B datasheet suggests that it can go even lower. So no Hokuyo-like...

Repetition rate up to 250 Hz

How strange, i've contacted them a month ago but still no reply...

Comment by Mike on July 14, 2011 at 12:22pm

Chris for terrain mapping you still need an accurate altitude of the aircraft relative to the datum. Obvious way to do this is with RTK. I have been testing this with small antennas but they really don't cut it and the one that I have had some success with are very hefty indeed in modelling terms. Also consider that a simple LIDAR system with only measure at points along the flight line - so if you want a high density DEM then you will need to fly an awful lot of closely spaced lines.So for me the best terrain mapping option remains digital photogrammetry which just requires some ground control at which level the RTK antenna weight is not an issue.



Comment by iangl on July 14, 2011 at 4:08pm

Hey Mike, you are correct. But we could even trust the data coming from a barometer or better, an array of barometers averaged together. i think mapping would still be possible and a new source of pure fun from UAVs


below is a viable configuration for mapping purpose: 


And the mirror mechanism (which should be DIY made)

Comment by Jason Short on July 14, 2011 at 6:31pm
I have a Neato robotics Lidar laying around. That is less than a tenth of the price in theory. It uses a cmos camera mounted at an angle. The horizontal pixels indicated depth. The angle and power of the laser limit it to about ten feet. To be honest it's not too different than the Wii sensor and LED bar, except the Neato emits it's own IR laser light source. I'm sure you could get better range out of it by angling the laser yourself but you would run into issue of power and focus.
Comment by hamadivo on July 15, 2011 at 9:25am


@iangl  i readed the datasheet of ECH-1B but i can't see any TTL I/O for computing signal delay.

May be, we can use arduino to make a controller (ETX-10A+RX-5XF.)



Comment by iangl on July 15, 2011 at 11:30am
Yes it should be easy as the module has selectable parallel/serial data interfaces, and the result (time interval) is given in a two-byte format, easily decoded by arduino
Comment by Tim Brown on January 16, 2012 at 9:20am

 I was just reading up on this as there are a lot of cool applications for ecological research.

These guys ( used a laser system built for cars by Ibeo which was <300 euro according to the only pricing I could find (here:

Anyone know anything about car laser systems?


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