The proposed low-SWaP lidar will have application in many NASA missions needing real-time 3D information such as fixing and refueling space craft, close approaches to asteroids, autonomous vision-based guidance and control for robotic systems and terrain mapping and hazard avoidance for autonomous land, air and sea vehicles. The technology developed in this project, especially the versatile non-mechanical beam scanning system in Phase I, can be also tailored for a number of other NASA sensor platforms such as coherent Doppler lidar for 3D wind sensing or differential absorption lidar (DIAL) for trace gas detection. Also, a reliable, low-SWaP gimbal replacement would also be useful for several other space-borne applications including active remote sensing using laser-based sensors, satellite-to-satellite communication, and position tracking within a cluster of nano-satellites, to name a few.
The proposed non-mechanical beam steering technology married with lidar sensors have numerous commercial applications. The platform can provide a low-SWaP package for hazard/collision avoidance for autonomous automobiles and unmanned vehicles, which is currently a very hot area of interest in the commercial sector. Other potential large markets are 3D imaging for autonomous robotics, noncontact structure analysis, topographical mapping and gesture recognition for augmented reality systems. Additionally, the non-mechanical scanner technology is well suited to deployment on wind farms for guiding and controlling power-generating wind turbines. The sensor is particularly well suited for this application because the low-SWaP package is ideal for mounting directly to a turbine or even packaging in an ocean-going buoy for sea-based wind farms. Such a buoy network would also have weather warning and prediction applications. Within the Department of Defense, this technology is being developed for applications such as munitions seeker tracking, passive imaging, and conventional hard-target lidar. Also, there is interest from automotive manufacturers who wish to use the technology for non-mechanical headlight steering.