Ultrasonic Sensors vs. LiDAR: Which One Should You Use?

Ultrasonic Sensors vs. LiDAR: Which One Should You Use? - MaxBotix
ultrasonic sensors vs. lidar LiDAR, or Light Detection and Ranging sensors, are a newer technology that is quickly becoming the industry standard for autonomous vehicles. But what about ultrasonic sensors? This blog post will compare and contrast both technologies to help you decide which one is best for your application.

LiDAR Sensors: Laser Distance Sensors

What are LiDAR sensors?

LiDAR sensors are a type of laser distance sensor that measures the range, or depth from a surface. They work by emitting pulses in all directions and measuring how long it takes for them to bounce back off targets.

What is the working principle of LiDAR Sensors?

The working principle of LiDAR sensors is similar to that of ultrasonic sensors. The only difference is the frequency in which they operate, while LiDARs use a laser beam instead of sound waves for measuring distance and analyzing objects with laser beams generated from an array or cluster. These are the most common ways LiDAR is used:
  • Environmental use: i.e. Mapping Land
  • Measuring Distance
  • Safety in Machine Use
  • Robotics

The advantages of using LiDAR

LiDAR sensors have the ability to measure 3D structures and generally aren't affected by light. They have a large measurement range and very good accuracy. Small objects are generally detected well with LiDAR sensors as they have smaller wavelengths than sonar sensors. If you're trying to detect something moving quick, the fast update rate will allow you to detect those targets as well.

The limitations of using LiDAR

The limitations of using LiDAR include a higher cost as compared to ultrasonic and IR sensors. It is also harmful for the naked eye- high end LiDAR devices may use stronger pulses that could affect human eyes, which means it must have a safety guard installed on top of each sensor in order not be damaged by sunlight exposure or bright light reflections off water surfaces. Narrow point detection can miss some objects like glass and items in close proximity to the floor.

Ultrasonic Sensors

Ultrasonic sensors are sensors that use sound waves to detect nearby objects. Ultrasonic sensors are a non-contact sensor meaning they can operate without touching the object you want detected.

What is the working principle of ultrasonic sensors?

Ultrasonic sensors emit high-frequency sound waves to the target to be detected. When an object is present within the sensor's detection range, it will reflect a sound wave back to its source. Distance is measured by how long it took the soundwave to return.

Common ways Ultrasonic Sensors are used:

The following are some of the most common uses for ultrasonic distance sensors:
  • Measuring Distance
  • Robotics
  • UAV
  • Remote Tank Level Applications
  • Parking
  • & more

The advantages to using Ultrasonic Sensors

Ultrasonic sensors are a cost-effective solution for detecting, counting, and identifying objects without requiring physical contact. They can be used in environments with high levels of dust or humidity and perform better than infrared sensors when there is a lot of smoke.

The limitations to using Ultrasonic sensors

They're not good for detecting fast moving objects or out of range items because they don't disrupt other areas when scanning a room.
  • Sensing Accuracy - The accuracy is affected by soft materials. Soft fabric absorbs sound waves, making it hard for the sensor to see the target.
  • Have a limited detection range - Currently our sensors with the longest ranges are 10m, aside from the cargo detection sensors (16.5m). For applications requiring closer ranges, ultrasonic sensors are ideal.
We cover the advantages and limitations of ultrasonic sensors more in depth here.

Sensor fusion - Using the Technologies Together

Sensor fusion is the process of combining sensor data from different sources to form a more accurate or complete understanding of the environment. Sensor fusion has become an increasingly important component in many industries, including automotive and robotics.

Benefits of sensor fusion

The benefits of sensor fusion are numerous. For example, the information collected by LiDAR sensors can be combined with ultrasonic sensor data to improve obstacle detection and localization of objects in difficult-to make out environments like dark rooms or foggy areas. A less obvious benefit is that combining different types of stimuli (elevation change relative wind speed) enables a more accurate understanding of what the environment is like.

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