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Student Researchers Aim at Developing Low-Cost, Portable LiDAR System


Photo of: Past MSU Students in Lasers and Optics Research


Last year, a group of Montana State University students stumbled upon the need for a portable, low-cost LiDAR system for educational purposes. The Optical Remote Sensor Laboratory (ORSL) at MSU seeks to educate others on imaging technologies in applications such as precision agriculture and climate science. This innovative student research team worked together to develop an affordable, portable LiDAR rangefinder and the accompanying educational package for teaching LIDAR to future generations of learners.


A Capstone Project


The student's paper outlines that their design uses a “pulsed diode laser at 635 nm wavelength an optical receiver with a 2.5 cm diameter lens, interference filter, and photodiode. The detector signal is passed into a comparator, whose output is used to determine range with a time-to-digital converter chip and processed with a microcontroller. Range data is then displayed in a GUI on a laptop screen. The system was designed to detect the location of solid objects at ranges up to 10 m. The main source of cost reduction within the system is achieved by using a fully integrated time-of-flight chip as well as small low-cost optics.” The team employed a Quantum Composers Emerald 9250 digital delay pulse generator as their synchronizer, as it was able to provide multiple independent channels, 5ps timing resolution, and a high level of accuracy as compared to similar units.


Role of the Digital Delay Pulse Generator

The Emerald pulse generator was used to provide square wave signals to precisely coordinate the system device’s timing and display. With its four independent outputs, the Emerald generated multiple waveforms with a time delay between channels and a 5 ps resolution. Resolution and accuracy of the width, delays, and period counters allowed for 10 kHz square waves with an amplitude of 3.30 Vpp and