The world's first commercial drone with collision avoidance LiDAR

SUAS News posted an article today about the Kespry Drone 2.0, a commercial drone that is advertised as requiring minimal human input during a mission. It has a forward looking LiDAR sensor specifically for obstacle sensing and collision avoidance. This might be that first commercially available drone to have LiDAR as standard equipment.

Looking at their website, I see that Kespry is offering cloud services to go with their new drone. This fits nicely into the business model that CA has suggested is essential for the long term sustainability of a modern drone company. Lasers and cloud services, I wish I'd thought of that! 

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Comment by Brandon Robinson on August 30, 2016 at 12:50pm

Does that look like a lidar lite in there to anyone else?

Comment by Gary McCray on August 30, 2016 at 1:57pm

Hi Brandon,

Lidar Lite made by Pulsed Light is out of business, sold off to Garmin and not being made any more.

Looks a lot more like a Lightware longer range Lidar to me.

And since Laser Developer who posted this works for Lightware, seems like a good bet.

One thing does bother me though, the Lidar shown senses a single very small spot directly in front of the copter with no scanning.

This does not present a comprehensive picture of what is in front of the aircraft and there are a lot of things you could easily still fly straight into - telephone pole or tree branch for instance.



Comment by Brandon Robinson on August 30, 2016 at 2:22pm

Hi Gary

You're almost definitely right that it's a Lightware ranger. I'm aware that Pulsed Light is gone but I'm eagerly awaiting the release of the Lidar Lite V3 from Garmin. I was trying to figure out if Kespry got ahold of the new sensor early to include in this product.

I agree that the location of the Lidar on this copter doesn't seem optimal in terms of obstacle avoidance but maybe they have an intelligent way around that by fusing the camera data?

Won't really know until the release I suppose.

Comment by Gary McCray on August 30, 2016 at 5:42pm

Hi Brandon, 

Unless you have heard something direct from Garmin, I think the V3 went down the tubes when Garmin boughtPulsed Light.

I have seen absolutely no mention of Garmin continuing with this and if you have information to the contrary I would very much like to know about it.

I know there are still references to the V3 on some of the original re-sellers for Pulsed Light, but I think they just haven't pulled those yet.

Comment by Brandon Robinson on August 30, 2016 at 6:07pm

So this Kickstarter was going before Garmin purchased PulsedLight. They make a product based around the Lidar Lite sensor and they've posted that they won't have supply issues for V3 because their deal was done before the purchase. They're also allowing for new orders of their product on the website, indicating no particular lack of supply for the sensors. I would be pretty disappointed if I had to buy their product just to crack it open for the Lidar Lite but I'd still probably do it.

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on August 30, 2016 at 6:23pm

I was just about to ask if this is a single point Lidar or if it has any ability to sweep or other array feature?

So, I wonder... I've heard, I don't know if this is true, but I've heard that Kespry is using Arducopter on their first generation drone.  Are they still using it on V2.0?  And if so, have they developed some collision avoidance function that they would like to share?

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on August 30, 2016 at 6:31pm

Oh, and another interesting point.  I thought that lens looked familiar.  And one report I read says that it's the Sony UMC-R10C.  Which means that it's not a 3DR specific product?

Comment by Gary Mortimer on August 30, 2016 at 9:14pm

Well according to the press release Rob “We’ve seen increased demand from technology partners like Kespry in the drone and robotics markets,” commented John Monti, director of visual imaging solutions at Sony Electronics. “The new lightweight Sony UMC-R10C is designed specifically for industrial applications leveraging low weight while maintaining high-quality image capture.”

Comment by Laser Developer on August 30, 2016 at 10:54pm

I didn't know about the release of the Drone 2.0 until I saw Gary's article, but given that LightWare supplies many of the drone manufacturing companies it is a fair bet to say that they are using one of our laser modules.

What interested me was the video on the Kespry website showing the LiDAR in action. It looks like the laser beam is scanning. This got me thinking that they might be using "natural scanning" to create a random point cloud rather than "forced scanning" driven by a motor or servo. There are many LiDAR devices used in other applications that rely on natural motion to build up an image from a single beam by collecting information about the aiming direction from an IMU rather than reading an encoder. This works as long as there is significant random movement of the laser beam, and let's face it, a drone is a great source of random motion!

You can test this principle yourself by taking a regular, visible laser pointer and aiming it a target 20m away. You should see that the laser beam performs a rapid, random "walk" as a consequence of the small movements of your hand and body. The further away you go, the more pronounced the movement becomes.

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on August 31, 2016 at 3:17am

LD, I was thinking about that too.  It's not quite the same as a controlled scan of course, and leaves you at the mercy of those natural motions.  For example, if you are flying forward into a wind, you'll be scanning an area inclined about 20 degrees from straight ahead.  

I was wondering, is it possible to make a low-angle scanner by moving just the lens?  Could the lens be articulated by a voice-coil or something like that?

But, I'm going to go ahead and guess that none of this is really happening, and maybe the Lidar system, as shown in the video, is maybe a bit of an exaggeration about what it's doing.

I know in Canada they were misleading customers into believing that they could operate these systems without obtaining an SFOC from Transport Canada.  I don't say that lightly.  So, it just colours my perception of their business practices.


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