Open Source Laser Range Sensor Converts the Speed of Light into the Speed of Sound
Press Release, February 2014:
In a direct attack on both the laser rangefinder market and the ultrasonic rangefinder market, LightWare Optoelectronics (Pty) Ltd, a South African based manufacturer of laser rangefinders, has begun production of an open source laser sensor (OSLRF-01) that can convert signals traveling at the speed of light into signals traveling at the speed of sound. This sensor has all the benefits of a laser rangefinder, like direct aiming, long range, immunity to noise and wind and high accuracy but non of the headaches associated with the super high speed circuitry normally found inside laser products. Instead, the OSLRF-01 outputs analog signals that look just like those found on an ultrasonic sensor. These speed-of-sound signals can easily interface directly with the ADCs of a microcontroller where conventional ultrasonic signal processing and timing algorithms can be applied to the data.
If the speed of sound is too slow for you, there is a control input on the OSLRF-01 that lets you select what Mach number you want to work with, anywhere from Mach 0.1 up to Mach 5. Running at higher Mach numbers means that the analog signals get faster and the time it takes for the laser/ultrasonic pulse to make a round trip gets shorter. So if your processor can handle the additional speed, you can have a quicker response time.
The OSLRF-01 can be used as the "bare metal" front end in a complete laser or ultrasonic rangefinder, or it can become a conventional distance sensor connected directly to the host processor on small robots, UAVs or UGVs. All the components on the OSLRF-01 circuit board are readily available from the large electronics components suppliers and there is no electronic trickery hidden inside ASICs or FPGAs. The OSLRF-01 doesn't even have a processor, so there's no fancy software to worry about either.
A brief technical description and circuit diagram can be found here: OSLRF-01 description. With input from the open source community, the OSLRF-01 could one day become the foundation of many other sensing devices such as scanning LIDARs, proximity sensors, depth/width/height gauges, obstacle detectors and altimeters.
LightWare is currently selling the OSLRF-01 at US$100.00 excluding shipping and local taxes. For sales enquiries visit: LightWare Optoelectronics (Pty) Ltd