Feb 25, 2016 | By Alec

You’ll probably have noticed that drone technology is really exploding in the mainstream realm. Drones are cheaper than ever, while 3D printed drones are filling tech forums everywhere. We’re even reaching a situation where a documentary or news item feels incomplete without a drone’s eye view of the immediate area. While we are thus becoming saturated with drone video footage, this hasn’t exactly helped us in the digital realm yet. That’s about to change through the efforts of the Scance.io startup, who are about to launch the 3D printed Sweep LiDAR scanner on Kickstarter – a laser-based scanner for drones that can capture high-resolution digital maps of surroundings from the sky. The digital world is about to become a lot bigger.

Scance.io is a Bay Area startup founded by Tyson Messori and Kent Williams, both with a background in robotics. "A few years ago we started a product development company, and we found that the one thing really holding back sophisticated, capable, mobile bots in the consumer space was having a scanning LiDAR sensor that was affordable enough to make sense,” they say. With the help of Sculpteo 3D printing services, that has been changed, and they are ready to launch their Sweep LiDAR Scanner on Kickstarter before the end of the month. Though it is their first commercial product, the pair revealed that they simply felt that the absence of affordable LiDAR technology is holding the market back.

LiDAR, for those of you who’ve never heard of it, is a light detection and ranging technology that is perfect for mapping your surroundings and already frequently used in the world of robotics. Measuring distance by illuminating a target with a laser light, it generates high resolution maps and is used in diverse fields such as archaeology, geography, geology, geomorphology, seismology, forestry, and atmospheric physics. Taking it out of the field of robotics, Scance is effectively putting that technology into the hands of drone hobbyists too.

What’s more, they have developed a very interesting 3D printed product. For one, it looks fantastic – its sleek design has a bit of an Apple feel to it, something they say was enabled by Sculpteo’s 3D printing services. It also keeps down the costs, with the first generation of scanners costing just $250 through their Kickstarter campaign. In contrast, a conventional LiDAR sensor will easily cost you up to $8,000. Weighing just 120 grams (about 0.25 pounds), it won’t be a burden to your drone at all. The scanner has a range of 40 meters, high ambient light tolerance, and is a pretty fast scanner by capturing 500 points per second, with an accuracy of down to 1 centimeter.

That excellent scanning ability makes this 3D printed scanner perfect for, they say, obstacle avoidance, mapping environments, sense and avoid autopilot, smart home security, interactive art and space dimensions measurement. Certainly, it adds a whole new dimension to hobby drones for its ability to avoid obstacles – who hasn’t lost a drone to an inconvenient tree? Scance further said that they mostly want to provide users with new pathways for experimentation.  “Our main goal right now is learning what people who have never been able to obtain LiDAR are going to do with it,” they say.

All of this would not have been possible without 3D printing, they say – especially as it has allowed for quick prototyping and changes to be made. “Providing them with 3D prints in 3 days where while other services can take more than 3 weeks. This has reduced their iteration process and helped them start the Sweep Kickstarter when they planned to, Tyson and Kent have provided us with an opportunity to receive feedback from them so that we can see better what their needs are and how we can help them achieve their goals,” Sculpteo said of their partnership. While their Kickstarter is not yet live at the time of writing, keep an eye on the Scance website for more details for supporting them.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Stefan Karlsson wrote at 3/15/2016 3:29:05 PM:

Hi! I've made an inteview with the co-founder and inventor Kent Williams at http://www.techstuffed.com/sweep-scanning-lidar-light-detection-ranging-campain-can-crowdfund-today for those who want to know more!:)

Steve wrote at 2/28/2016 3:58:07 AM:

I'm interested. Keep me posted.

Scanse Team wrote at 2/26/2016 9:19:51 PM:

Sweep uses a different kind of sensor than Kinect and all other structured light cameras. It uses a powerful filtering system to identify returning signals, even in direct sunlight conditions. Kinect and similar sensors do not do this, and consequently have a limited range, especially outdoors. Sweep is well suited for identifying obstacles within it's plain of view (a 360 degree flat plain) up to 40 meters away in outdoor environments.

Ben wrote at 2/25/2016 7:24:20 PM:

500 points/second is extremely low. In comparison the Kinect is said to capture 9 million points/second. 1 degree beam angle? On a quadcopter? Nooo.....

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