Aren’t Lidar and radar basically the same thing? What can radar technology do that Lidar can’t?

They’re similar in some respects, but they have some crucial differences! We believe radar technology is superior! While Lidar technology can continue to function in conditions of heavy rain, snow, or fog, its performance will be significantly degraded — but radar will continue to function just as well as if it were a clear, sunny day! This makes radar technology ideal for real-world applications, where drones, automobiles, and industrial equipment typically has to operate in conditions of rain, ocean spray, fog, dust, and more. Standard Lidar technology is also not suited for applications where water is present, as water absorbs the Lidar signal. Radar technology, on the other hand, is very well-suited for applications where large bodies of water are present — such as over oceans or large lakes — and its performance will not suffer. Similarly, radar can detect a glass wall or door while radar will “see” through them. This makes radar a perfect sensor for robotics operating at sports stadium. Finally, standard Lidar technology’s performance will degrade in the presence of bushes or heavy vegetation. This means Lidar technology isn’t well suited for use in applications such as forest management, precision agriculture, or wildlands search and rescue. Radar technology, on the other hand, suffers none of these weaknesses and will continue to function at peak performance in such conditions.

Ainstein’s radar-based sensing technology operates in the K-band (24 GHz) and 77-81 GHz frequency microwave radar signals. These signals propagate through a multitude of atmospheric conditions and are less affected by rain, dense fog, blizzards or clouds, allowing for accurate measurement in all weather conditions, as well as superior performance in low light, such as during the night.

In addition, Ainstein has developed the intelligence to allow our UAV radar sensors to accurately detect items commonly found while flying in urban environments, items such as cars, buildings, pedestrians, power lines, and tree branches. Our solutions can even reliably detect small items such as city power lines within 0-5 meters range. With Ainstein’s sensing solutions, UAVs have the ability to fly and land safely by detecting and avoiding these objects autonomously.

With advanced algorithms, our solutions provide smooth, above ground altimeter measurements for water surface and bushes; other sensors may be confused by jittering measurements in such environments.

Ainstein’s radar altimeter is ideal for UAV applications requiring a 0-150 meter range and 2 cm accuracy, including operations such as precision agriculture and last-mile e-commerce delivery. They are excellent solutions for autonomous takeoff, landing, and way-point navigation, and maintaining a target altitude during flight. Ainstein radar technology powered sense-and-avoid sensors detect and locat obstacles on the horizon quickly and reliably, allowing for correction of flight course and collision prevention. The system incorporates adaptive sensing technology that adjusts the sensing range based on flying speed (up to 200m), and optimizes its response; it is ideal for applications that require high resolution, in-flight sensing and collision avoidance for walls, buildings, tree branches and other obstacles in outdoor environments. Ainstein altimeter and sense-and-avoid radars are the building blocks for autonomous UAVs. They provide peace of mind with UAVs that will fly safely regardless of weather conditions and types of surfaces encountered.

I see similar products from other companies. What makes Ainstein’s technology better?

  • Compact:

Ainstein’s radar scientists and engineers have taken a unique and innovative approach from traditional radar systems, and have been at the fore-front of using the latest technology such as CMOS and FPGA. Our team has redesigned the microwave sensing system to create compact sensors with miniaturized antennas, RF circuits, and signal processors that meet the strict payload limitations of smaller UAVs. Ainstein’s radar altimeter has the smallest form factor in the industry. These patent-pending sensing solutions are suitable even for the smallest UAVs on the market.

  • Ultra-Low Power Consumption:

We’ve given special considerations to reduce the power consumption of our radar products. This power consumption shift allows UAVs to fly longer without recharging.

  • Ultimate Ease of Integration

Ainstein’s radar-powered sensing solutions support multiple I/O interfaces, including UART, I2C and CAN. Our solutions self-calibrate automatically based on collected geometrics information, so users don’t need to—simply plug and play to integrate with UAV flight controller.

How does Ainstein’s technology enable autonomous drone/UAV use?

Currently, the majority of consumer and business drones fly within line of sight, as they either lack the necessary sensors to aid in detecting their surroundings, or aren’t equipped with the advanced on-vehicle processing that ensures the real-time sensor input required to determine and correct flight courses.

These deficient capabilities have dramatically limited Unmanned Aerial Vehicle(UAV)s’ potential in our lives. Ainstein envisions broadly reaching opportunities to provide beneficial and meaningful changes for autonomous drones.

UAVs can be utilized to fill labor shortages in precision agriculture by spraying seed or feed at large farms, for emergency delivery of medical samples between hospitals in highly congested urban areas, trans-Atlantic cargo shipment or last mile e-commerce delivery. However, each of these applications requires UAVs to fly without human intervention, with the added ability to detect and avoid objects in their path in order to safely reach their destination. These demands present unique technical challenges for smart-sensing and high-capacity on-board flight controller for UAVs. In addition, consideration must be given to the regulatory mandate to fly UAVs safely by 2020.

While aviation, military, and other industries have long deployed radar sensing solutions for their needs, these solutions typically weigh 13 pounds or more, not lending themselves well to UAVs, which must be designed to be lightweight to allow for optimal flight time and payload. Price tags in the thousands of dollars are prohibitive for some applications. Additionally, the existing UAV flight controllers on the market either lack the process capabilities for large amounts of data and the flexibility for multiple sensor inputs, or the computer architecture is not optimized for real-time processing.

We at Ainstein have set out to develop complete autonomous flying solutions for UAVs that are intelligent and affordable; our vision and design will unleash and maximize the full potential of UAVs, and do so for a wide range of markets. The Ainstein team is composed primarily of scientists with PhD degrees and highly specialized, experienced engineers. We strive to draw on years of academic research and industry know-how to deliver leading and complete self-driving solutions for UAVs.

What technology do Ainstein’s UAV products use?

With patent-pending miniature designed electronics and advanced, AI-ready algorithms, Ainstein develops an integrated autonomous flying solution in highly compact form with ultra-low power consumption.

The pillar components of the solution are Ainstein radar-based sensing technology, and FPGA enabled Ainstein flight control intelligence; both are purpose-built and integrated for landing, collision sensing and avoidance, and self-flying scenarios commonly required in UAV Applications.

What do system-on-chip (SoC) based flight controllers do?

Safely flying UAVs beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) requires the UAV to not only be cognitively aware of its surroundings, but also intelligent and intuitive in choosing real-time flight courses.

Determining how to handle unexpected situations—such as navigating among dense buildings and other man-made structures—entails a great deal of processing. Today, many industrial-use drones fly at 85 mph or more; for these drones, most processing is done on board and quickly, since there may be lack of time for the vehicle to generate messages and receive instructions about an unexpected situation.

To make UAVs truly cognitive, an array of sensors must be embedded throughout the vehicle. These sensors generate a high volume of data, which requires substantial computing capabilities and real-time processing ability. We believe that System-on-Chip (SoC) are ideally suited to perform these tasks. Field programmable gate arrays (FPGA) meets the strict timing requirement of real-time signal processing, while the dual-core ARM processor handles the complicated algorithm designed for specialized applications. This control solution functions as the brain of the smart drone, providing clear advantages over the microcontroller unit (MCU) in terms of processing power and I/O capability.

Why are SoC controllers better?

AI-Capable Processing Power:
With the drone industry quickly reaching new commercial and consumer markets with creative and advanced applications such as precision agriculture, 3D modeling/mapping/surveying, delivery services, industrial inspection, and more, drone applications are becoming increasingly complex and require greater processing power. Ainstein’s SoC controllers support complex applications with load-balancing, FPGA logic which enables sensor fusion, real-time data processing and deep learning; these functions free up the CPU to better perform high-level autonomous decision making
and flight control.

Unmatched Flexibility:
The SoC controllers of our sister company for drone products, Aerotenna, offer one of the most flexible computing platforms, and can process radar, vision, and other sensing inputs; they are equipped with over 30 programmable I/Os which support most standard interfaces. Built on the configurable nature of FPGAs, Aerotenna OcPoC flight controllers can be reprogrammed in order to support the latest algorithms, and are also able to be customized for various performance requirements without complete custom hardware. They have ASIC capabilities, but with convenient flexibility for changes.

Industrial Grade Redundancy:
OcPoC flight controllers are designed to function in cases of unexpected system component failures during flight. To ensure continued flight for urgent missions, triple-redundancy for critical components—such as GPS, IMU, and more—are built into the system.

Developer Friendly:
The SoC controllers of our sister company for drone products, Aerotenna, can run a variety of embedded operating systems, such as Linux, making it easy to develop and modify. The controllers support popular open-source software suites, such as PX4 and ArduPilot, and come with proprietary collision-avoidance algorithms. We simplify the development process for developers, putting every idea within reach.

Can Ainstein’s technology be used for security applications?

Yes! Radar technology can be used to not only detect obstacles for drones, but also to detect moving people or vehicles in applications such as corrections management, perimeter control, and border control. As these applications are highly environment-dependent, please contact us directly to discuss your particular needs with us.