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Velodyne and YellowScan partner on drone lidar

27 Oct 2017

UAV mapping company deploys lightweight 'Puck' sensors for aerial surveying applications.

California-based lidar sensor maker Velodyne has hooked up with YellowScan, a specialist in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) mapping technology, to provide a new surveying system aimed at applications including forestry, environmental research, and civil engineering.

The two companies showed off the resulting lightweight “Surveyor LiDAR” system at this week’s Commercial UAV Expo in Las Vegas, demonstrating a range of 100 meters possible with Velodyne’s “Puck” sensors.

Real-time mapping
France-headquartered YellowScan says it will integrate Velodyne’s VLP-16 Puck and VLP-16 Puck LITE sensors to provide a turn-key, real-time laser mapping system for demanding industrial and scientific UAV applications.

“Real-time lidar systems for UAVs are leveraged around the world for applications including surveying, civil engineering, archeology, and environmental science, requiring YellowScan’s ultra-compact 3D laser mapping solutions,” announced the company.

The Puck sensors from Velodyne, which have been developed for applications in advanced driver assistance and autonomous vehicles, weigh less than a kilogram, meaning that YellowScan’s 3D data capture system can be mounted to virtually any drone.

“The result is a real-time in-flight lidar monitoring platform, with users able to see how the final map is being generated in real-time during the drone mission, and the basic map datasets available immediately after the mission,” say the two companies.

Erich Smidt, who heads up European operations at Velodyne, said: “The VLP-16 Pucks are some of our newest offerings, with significant effort put into reducing weight while maintaining the resolution and reliability expected of Velodyne’s industry-leading lidar sensors.”

YellowScan CTO Tristan Allouis, an expert in forestry mapping, added: “YellowScan Surveyor, the turn-key lidar solution integrating Velodyne’s advanced VLP-16 sensor, enables mapping professionals to do more in less time thanks to tremendously high density and accurate measurements acquired from UAVs.”

Production quadrupled
Earlier this month Velodyne said that it had “more than quadrupled” production of lidar sensors at its San Jose factory, in direct response to booming demand from the fast-growing autonomous vehicle sector.

While it faces stiff competition from dozens of heavily financed competitors, Velodyne – which previously specialized in high-end audio equipment – has managed to establish itself as an early mover in the field, and founder and CEO David Hall said:

“With the tremendous surge in autonomous vehicle orders and new installations across the last 12 months, we scaled capacity to meet this demand, including a significant increase in production from our 200,000-square-foot Megafactory.”

Employee numbers across the company’s three facilities in California are said to have doubled in just six months. As well as the “Megafactory”, Velodyne has a research center in Alameda, and its original manufacturing site in Morgan Hill.

Among its key partners in the automotive sector is Mercedes-Benz. Last month the German auto giant selected Velodyne’s “VLP-32C Ultra Puck” sensor for further development within its driverless vehicle program.

Mercedes-Benz is working on systems integrating various technologies including lidar to provide continuous situational analysis through sensor fusion. “The goal is to guarantee reliable results to allow a robust planning of safe trajectories for automated vehicles,” it explains, with Axel Gern, its VP responsible for autonomous driving research and development in North America, adding:

“We recognize Velodyne as a market leader for lidar sensors, helping us getting fully autonomous vehicles on the road.”

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