Velodyne introduces the Velarray M1600 solid-state LiDAR, the first in a new line of products from Velodyne. The market has been waiting five plus years for a LiDAR vendor to deliver a solid-state LiDAR unit that is both reliable and affordable. The Velarray M1600 unit is built using Velodyne’s proprietary micro-LiDAR array architecture (MLA) and leverages Velodyne’s manufacturing partnerships for cost optimization and high-volume production.
Solid-State LiDAR Is A Key Cost Saver For AMR Vendors
The new LiDAR sensor will immediately find applications in guidance and obstacle avoidance for autonomous mobile robots. The majority of AMR vehicles on the market use either LiDAR or vision cameras for obstacle detection and avoidance. The state of the art for industrial safety LiDAR units are “rotating mirror” LiDAR units that bounce a laser off of a spinning mirror and then perform a time-of-flight calculation to determine the distance to objects seen by the LiDAR.
The industrial safety LiDARs have a long track record and have been proven capable for the last two decades. Unfortunately, many of the safety LiDAR deployed today (including Velodynes own HDL-32E, HDL-64E and Puck series LiDARs) are expensive, costing somewhere between $5K to $9K each. For AMR vendors, putting two safety LiDARS on an AMR base unit eats up a significant portion of the bill of materials cost. Velodyne expects the Velarray sensors to sell for only a couple hundred dollars each, once they achieve the mass production volume from deploying into autonomous vehicles and industrial AMRs.
There Is A Huge Market For Solid-State LiDAR
The autonomous vehicle and industrial AMR industries have been holding their collective breathe while waiting for sensor manufacturers to innovate and deliver a high-quality and capable solid-state LiDAR unit. There are no moving parts in a solid-state LiDAR unit. This helps to lower the price point and improve the reliability of a solid-state LiDAR unit. The result should be a sensor that costs a fraction of the price of the classic safety LiDAR units.
“The Velarray M1600 LiDAR sensor is the latest proof point for Velodyne’s innovation track record,” said Anand Gopalan, Velodyne LiDAR CEO. “The sensor was designed for high volume mobile robotic applications with direct input from robotics and last-mile delivery customers. This durable and compact sensor can be deployed in a wide variety of environments and weather conditions allowing nearly 365-day, 24/7 usage. It can provide the smart, real-time perception data required by autonomous mobile robots for safe and extended operation without human intervention.”
Another opportunity for a solid-state device is to affordably open up applications for 3D LiDAR imaging. Today, the majority of LiDAR applications are 2 dimensional. This means that the LiDAR can only image in a single plane or slice of the world. This currently works okay for AMRs as the LiDAR units can align at 8 inches above the ground and see anything that is sitting on the ground at that height. But a 2D LiDAR unit has a blind spot anywhere above or below its imaging plane. 3D LiDAR is available in the rotating mirror design, but it is slow to update (relative to 2D) and it returns a huge amount of data, requiring additional processing.
How a 2D LiDAR works
The Velarray M1600 provides autonomous robots with outstanding near-field, 3D perception up to 30 meters and a broad 32-degree vertical field of view, allowing them to traverse unstructured and changing environments. The sensor enables robots to safely navigate crowded urban areas and corridors for delivery and security applications. Other environments in which the Velarray M1600 will enable autonomous mobile robot operation include warehouses, retail centers, industrial plants and medical facilities. For customers seeking a perception solution package, Velodyne provides Vella software, which utilizes Velarray M1600 data for object and hazard detection, to protect roadway users including pedestrians, bicyclists and pets.
Designed for functional safety and durability, the Velarray M1600 supports autonomous mobile robots in a wide variety of challenging environmental conditions, including temperature, lighting and precipitation. Featuring a compact form factor, the sensor is well-suited for external mounting but also can be easily embedded into robotics systems.
With the available Robot Operating System driver, the Velarray M1600 provides a user-friendly interface for developers. The sensor has modest power demands so the robot can operate longer between battery charges. Samples will be available to qualified customers with a lead time of approximately 6-8 weeks.