Lidar Optical Design

From self-driving cars to 3D imaging, from agricultural monitoring to archaeological research, LIDAR  has become the optical technology of choice for AI applications, the technology of the future. Optical engineers at  Avantier Inc are experienced in LIDAR optical design for a broad range of applications, and we would be happy to work with you to design, build, and  manufacture LIDAR systems for use in any application you desire.

What is LIDAR Optical Design?

LIDAR stands for “Light Detection and Ranging”, a cutting-edge technology that allows devices to ‘see’ with laser light. Roughly, a laser pulse is emitted by a source, and reaches and is reflected by the target to be elucidated. Reflected light is detected at or near the source, and the time of flight (TOF), round distant travel time,  can give an accurate estimate of the distance to the object. 

For a LIDAR optical system to function well, it should be efficient both in sending and collecting the laser light. It is especially important that the lens assembly used to collect the light does so at a high level and effectively over the entire field of view (FOV). There are two primary optical designs for LIDAR systems: Flash LIDAR and Scanning LIDAR.


Flash LIDAR, also referred to as solid state laser,  involves a single laser source which illuminates an entire field of view in one pulse, through expansion with diffusers.  Reflected laser lights reach a detector array, where time of flight can be calculated for each detector element. Flash LIDAR systems are effective and robust, but they function best as short range sensors  to detect objects at less than about 30 meters distance from the LIDAR source.

Scanning LIDAR

More complex than Flash LIDAR, Scanning LIDAR involves a collimated laser source that scans the field of view by means of rotating prisms or a micro mirror. Light is detected with a single photodetector at each discrete point. 

When a scene is static, Scanning LIDAR can be more accurate than Flash LIDAR, but it is also bulkier and more expensive. Rapidly changing scenes can be problematic for a LIDAR scanning system, as the image it forms is created over time. These systems require more upkeep on account of the moving parts, and are not as robust as Flash LIDAR.

LIDAR Optical Design Applications

While the LIDAR system in an autonomous, self-driving car may be the best known example of this optical system, LIDAR is becoming more and more ubiquitous today.

LIDAR mapping techniques have been used by archeologists to discover Mayan cities in the jungles of Guatemala, as well as a full network of ancient highways under the jungle and complex irrigation and terracing systems. In northern England, LIDAR systems were able to elucidate ancient Roman roads that had not yet been discovered.

When LIDAR scanning systems are used in coastal mapping, they are able to produce seamless maps of both land and sea topography. Especially useful in shallow areas where the topography is complex, airborne LIDAR bathymetry is able to produce highly precise maps that are indispensable to those navigating dangerous water.

Airborne Lidars (light detection and ranging scanning systems) can also be used to map vegetation, elucidating such details as the vertical structure of forest canopies, tree species, and even individual tea crowns. In cities, airborne LIDAR generates detailed wide areas terrain maps for highway corridor planning and design, infrastructure asset management, and highway or road planning and design.

LIDAR Optical Design at Avantier Inc.

Please contact us to schedule a free consultation or request for quote on your LIDAR optical design project or to discuss our manufacturing capabilities.

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