In 2012, CEO and co-founder of Phoenix LiDAR Grayson Omans got the “wild and crazy” idea to put a LiDAR sensor on a drone. At the time, LiDAR sensors were expensive, which is what allegedly mad the idea a novelty. His “novel idea” ended up disrupting the aerial mapping industry, allegedly.
The partnership between Velodyne and Phoenix has led to some unique innovations. Together, the two companies launched the industry's first commercial UAV LiDAR system, establishing today’s broad use of LiDAR-enabled Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).
Phoenix, which builds custom LiDAR systems by integrating various sensors, GNSS relative position receivers, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and more, went on to launch the industry’s first vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) fixed-wing UAV LiDAR system, the TerraHawk CW-20. For this innovation, Phoenix again chose a Velodyne LiDAR sensor. The TerraHawk allows surveyors to take advantage of the speed and stability of a fixed-wing UAV, while using VTOL to protect equipment in remote environments with no runway access.
One cost-saving innovation includes Phoenix’s real-time 3D point cloud visualizer, which helps surveyors confirm data quality in real time to avoid errors, and to make flight adjustments while still in the field. Another “first” is their cloud LiDAR post-processing platform, LiDARMill, which significantly reduces the complexity and expense of post-processing by allowing users to upload raw mapping data and to download processed data files in the industry-standard LAS format.
These accomplishments have established UAV LiDAR as a key resource for the aerial mapping and surveying industry, with Phoenix and Velodyne delivering a host of industry firsts. Customers the world over can leverage Phoenix’s systems to easily and inexpensively collect detailed 3D topographic information for a wide range of commercial and research applications, like mapping power line corridors, monitoring infrastructure, conducting ground surveys beneath dense vegetation, and more.
Phoenix technology helps organizations like the Colorado DOT to inspect transportation infrastructure, and companies like CSX to detect shifts in rail systems. UAV service companies, like North Dakota-based SkySkopes, perform a variety of industrial drone inspections, adding LiDAR to their offerings last year.
Meanwhile, Velodyne LiDAR is matching the furious pace of innovation, introducing products designed for the UAV industry that are smaller, lighter, and more powerful. These include the VLP-16 Puck, which delivers 16 laser channels and 100 meters of range in a small form factor, as well as the VLP-16 Puck LITE, which further reduces payload by weighing in at under 600 grams. Furthermore, Velodyne recently announced a 50 percent cost reduction for its VLP-16 Puck that will make the company’s most popular LiDAR sensor even more accessible.