03 Jan 2022
To deliver 3D sensing capabilities with its chip-scale LiDAR system.Voyant Photonics has announced that it raised $15.4M in Series A led by UP.Partners with participation of earlier investors LDV Capital and Contour Ventures.
Voyant’s LiDAR system, which contains thousands of optical components fabricated on a single semiconductor chip, enables its users to integrate what the company calls “an exponentially more scalable LiDAR system than possible to date”. Voyant developer kits are now available for certain customers on its waiting list.
The company’s funding statement stated, “Previously, LiDAR systems were fabricated using discrete mechanical and optical components, resulting in large and expensive solutions. Our solution radically reduces the size and manufacturing complexity of LiDAR. Voyant’s LiDAR chips pave the way for large-scale adoption of 3D sensing in the same way that CMOS image sensors enabled the accelerated growth of digital photography.”
Voyant leverages commercially available and scalable semiconductor fabrication processes that combine thousands of optical and electrical components onto a single chip. This enables Voyant to mass-produce a LiDAR system similar to how computer chips are made. Co-founders Chris Phare and Steven Miller had been working on LiDAR chips for years at Columbia University’s Lipson Nanophotonics Group when they decided to commercialize their technology and launched Voyant Photonics.
Adapted from silicon photonics technology
Miller and Phare’s insight was to apply the silicon photonics technology used for optical data communications. “When you fabricate a LiDAR system on a chip, the fabrication cost stays the same regardless of how many components you use,” said Phare. “We will soon be selling LiDAR systems for a few hundred dollars and longer-term will sell them for less than a hundred dollars at scale.”
Voyant’s devices demonstrate a complete LiDAR system in a field-deployable package, using Voyant’s patented techniques for on-chip digital beam steering, optical signal processing, and laser control. “When we started on our mission to make LiDAR a ubiquitous technology for machine perception, a lot of people said silicon photonics was not ready to leave the lab,” said Miller. “Our successful first milestones prove that we can build a complete LiDAR solution that meets industrial needs, using silicon photonics, and deploy it anywhere.”
“Ubiquitous 3D vision is critical to enabling the transformation of the world of transportation and beyond. We are honored to partner with the Voyant team who is the leading innovator in the field. Their solution will leapfrog all competitors and deliver a scalable solution to enable 3D vision,” said Ben Marcus, Managing Partner of UP.Partners.
“Now we are delivering the first LiDAR systems of their type powered by an integrated photonic chip,” said Voyant’s CEO Peter Stern. “Our diverse customers in robotics, AGVs, mobility, industrial automation, and security all have one thing in common: they are building solutions that need to understand the world around them. That is what our LiDAR systems provide.” Sternis a serial entrepreneur who has a background in creating military-grade LiDAR. He started as an advisor to Voyant and recently became its CEO.