NIST researchers looking for advanced ladar sensors for unmanned ground vehicles

July 1, 2002
Researchers are looking for ideas from industry on how to develop advanced laser radar — or ladar — for unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs).

By John Keller

GAITHERSBURG, Md. — Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Md., are looking for ideas from industry on how to develop advanced laser radar — or ladar — for unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs).

Experts in the Intelligent Systems Division at NIST are releasing a broad agency announcement that says high-performance ladar sensors are necessary for operating autonomous UGVs on and off roads because they provide obstacle detection, terrain information, and information about the environment surrounding the vehicle.

The ladar sensors that UGV researchers have used so far are large, expensive, and have limited performance, NIST officials say.

NIST officials want industry ideas first on how to design an engineering prototype to improve the ladar range imaging technologies, and then to develop prototypes of two kinds of ladar sensors.

The first prototype should have a 40-by-90-degree field of view with a resolution of about 0.25 degrees or better per pixel. The second should be a foveal ladar with a narrow field-of-view of approximately 1/10th of the first sensor, with a resolution of about 0.05 degrees or better per pixel.

NIST officials say they anticipate inter-pixel spacing of no more than 10 percent of the specified spatial resolution to make the foveal ladar steerable to any position within the field-of-view of the wide-angle ladar.

Both types of ladar sensors should have range resolutions of about five centimeters, should be able to detect the ground plane out to a distance of at least 40 meters and vertical surfaces out to a range of at least 100 meters, and operate at least 10 frames per second.

Both ladar sensors must be eye-safe, able to penetrate dust, fog, grass, and light foliage, either by sensing several different returns or looking for the last return, as well as able to operate in full sunlight.

For more information contact NIST's Romena Moy by phone at 301-975-4999, by fax at 301-975-8884, or by e-mail at [email protected]. Information on the announcement is available on the World Wide Web at

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