NIST report sees bright future for LIDAR

July 5, 2004
Gaithersburg, MD, July 5, 2004--A new National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) report predicts "tremendous" applications for laser scanning devices, also known as LIDAR (for Laser Detection and Ranging) and argues for a vigorous effort to create next-generation LIDAR.

Gaithersburg, MD, July 5, 2004--A new National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) report predicts "tremendous" applications for laser scanning devices, also known as LIDAR (for light detection and ranging) and argues for a vigorous effort to create next-generation LIDAR. The results, says study director William Stone, "could be comparable to the advances achieved when computers were first matched with machinery."

Industry has used LIDAR systems, which create three-dimensional images of areas and objects, since the late 1970s. Recent advances in microchip lasers, optics, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and computers, however, have increased LIDAR's speed of data acquisition, range accuracy and reliability, as well as reduced its size and costs. LIDARs now are used to generate topographic images, to survey the depths of large bodies of water, and as three-dimensional documentation of construction when building plans are not available. Manufacturers also are beginning to use LIDARs as a tool to recreate critical machine components from single examples.

NIST is testing LIDAR as a tool for remote management of construction sites and for navigating unoccupied military vehicles. (The latter research could soon lead to collision-avoidance advances for civilian automobiles.) To spur greater LIDAR industrial use, NIST also is working to develop test objects for LIDAR performance standards so industry can have confidence in laser scanning readings and comparison of systems.

Other LIDAR research currently under way at NIST includes work on rapid, long-range automated identification systems for remote scanning and inventory of construction materials; automated LIDAR-based docking systems for building construction cranes; and basic scientific and engineering research that will enable development of miniature, high-resolution, low-cost, next-generation LIDAR systems.

For more information on "Performance Analysis of Next-Generation LADAR for Manufacturing, Construction and Mobility," see www.bfrl.nist.gov/bfrlnews/NISTIR_7117_Final_Complete.pdf.

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