Sweep sensor adds affordable autonomy and laser mapping to drones and robots

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Users can mount Sweep on drones and robots for object detection/tracking, terrain mapping, or navigation sense/avoidance(Credit: Scanse)

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If you're a car manufacturer, you likely have a sizable budget to openly experiment with sensor technology and vehicular autonomy. Companies such as Ford, Kia, and others have been busy designing and testing fleets on city streets and roadways. But a new startup is looking to create a consumer-affordable scanning LiDAR, ideal for makers, enthusiasts, and students. The Scanse Sweep is designed to provide 360 degree sensing capabilities to drones, robots, and more.

LiDAR technology utilizes laser light to measure distance to objects and terrain. Many of these sensor systems, such as Quanergy's solid-state unit for self-driving cars, can cost upwards of US$1,000 per unit. The Scanse Sweep is different, in that it's designed with a sensing technique that takes advantage of lower-power components. These components help make Sweep more affordable, although at the cost of requiring additional time for measurements.

Measuring 2.5 x 2 in (65 x 50.9 mm) and weighing 4.2 oz (120 g), the Scanse Sweep is roughly the size of two hockey pucks stacked atop each other. The sensor module is enclosed within a rotating head, which is operated by a small drive motor for a 360-degree field of view. Sweep is designed to take 500 samples per second up to a distance of 40 m (131 ft), with a rotation speed of 2 to 10 Hz that can be adjusted on-the-fly.

Since it's so compact, users can mount Sweep on many types of drones and robots for object detection/tracking, terrain mapping, or navigation sense/avoidance. The product comes with software to view sensor data, change settings, and update firmware. However, additional drivers are being designed to make Sweep compatible with software languages and platforms such as python, javascript, C/C++, ROS, Raspberry Pi, and Arduino, to name a few.

Thanks to its USB connection and small adapter, the Scanse Sweep communicates with computers via plug-and-play. With its claimed easy set up and durable design, Sweep reportedly makes an effective learning tool for those curious to experiment with programming and robotics.

The Scanse Sweep is currently funding on Kickstarter, having raised 46 percent of its $230,000 goal in 14 days, with another 26 days left to go. A pledge of $245 sets you up with one Sweep scanner.

Sweep has been tested through a number of prototypes, so if tooling and production goes according to schedule, backers can expect shipments to start sometime this November.

Check out the video below to see the Scanse Sweep controlling a turret.

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