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It need not be as effective as lidar or it may have some disadvantages when compared with lidar. What are the probable alternatives?

Edit: I'm intending to use it outdoors for navigation of autonomous vehicle. Is there any low cost LIDAR or is there any alternative sensor for obstacle detection?

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This representative sample of what's out there may give you some idea of what's out there at various price points: enter image description here

Unfortunately, you're talking several thousand dollars for an outdoor unit with 10's to 100's of meter range (as of March 2015). The chart is from a blog article I wrote on the topic. Google used a $70-80K unit on their original vehicles. The 2nd to last item on the chart above, while not as capable as that unit, is advertised as a unit for vehicle automation.

Sophisticated stereo cameras with image processing may be an alternative, and may be cheaper, but you're still talking significant $, not just a webcam and OpenCV.

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  • $\begingroup$ Since I wrote this response a new product has come out and gotten good reviews, it brings outdoor use and a range of 40m down under 500 dollars. I've not used one, and this is not an endorsement. But if 349 dollars is "low cost", then checkout Scanse (scanse.io). $\endgroup$ – ViennaMike Sep 22 '17 at 0:51
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Your cheapest option will probably be to use a ultrasonic sensor on a stepper, by advancing the server one step and reading the distance. The only downside to this will be the resolution you can get, which will be depend on your ultrasonic sensor. Another thing to consider is that ultrasonic waves don't work well on curved surfaces so the accuracy could decrease if you were detecting say a ball.

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  • $\begingroup$ But isn't the range of ultrasonic sensors small? Coz I need to map something that is 30mts far. $\endgroup$ – seetharaman Sep 19 '14 at 8:10
  • $\begingroup$ That is too far for most ultrasonic sensors what are you doing? $\endgroup$ – user2887044 Sep 19 '14 at 18:38
  • $\begingroup$ Sensors for Autonomous navigation vehicles. $\endgroup$ – seetharaman Sep 19 '14 at 18:42
  • $\begingroup$ Like full size cars?, In that case I would go with not lidar, more combined approach ultrasonic for close up, map data for longer range with augmented GPS $\endgroup$ – user2887044 Sep 19 '14 at 19:24
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, like full size cars. Ultrasonic can be used for short distance, but how do I sense something that is infront(like 15mts) of the vehicle or on the sides(5mts). $\endgroup$ – seetharaman Sep 20 '14 at 5:35
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I don't have enough reputation to comment, but I'll add my 2cents in an answer. Basically you're limited to lidar mapping if you want any decent fidelity. Stereoscopic imaging via OpenCV in one distribution or another will be processing intensive and will take too long for any type of real-time navigation unless you're just shredding things computationally or you don't care about time.

I honestly wouldn't even consider sonar modules unless you're wanting to ONLY use them for very very near obstacle detection with low fidelity (as the other user said: curved surfaces don't play nicely with ultrasonic waves).

Hacking a couple of Kinects may be the best option, but you're range-limited to a closer distance than a decent lidar module. You can spend thousands on lidar modules that have a pretty phenomenal range. I should also add that there are probably people that have hacked Kinects as well to do the same task and you could even possibly rotate one around to map out complete surroundings so long as you have a computer hooked up to it to map it out and retain the point clouds that you generate.

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  • $\begingroup$ How good is sonar? $\endgroup$ – seetharaman Sep 23 '14 at 15:27
  • $\begingroup$ It really depends. Higher powered modules could be alright, but for near-range fidelity sonar really isn't your option. Imaging with post-processing is much better. $\endgroup$ – black_bird Oct 1 '14 at 0:26
  • $\begingroup$ Black_bird I need to use it during night too, so I thought a sonar with some low range/cost lidar would be helpful. What's your thought on this? Ps: i have not personally worked on this, my information is based on my theoretical study. $\endgroup$ – seetharaman Oct 1 '14 at 4:46
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Depending on what your actual use case is, you might be able to use

  • Stereo cameras: Needs more processing power on board, usually smaller field of view

  • Kinect

There are some kickstarter projects that promise some low cost alternatives as well. Example

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  • $\begingroup$ I want to use it outdoors. I think kinetic used ir and May not be suitable. $\endgroup$ – seetharaman Sep 19 '14 at 8:15
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    $\begingroup$ You're likely to get more relevant answers if you list all your constraints in your original question. Outdoors is one, and you mentioned distance in a comment below. Also, how low is low cost? Garage hobbyist level or start-up R&D level? That said, there isn't really a good answer to your question at this point in time :( $\endgroup$ – RaGe Sep 19 '14 at 14:45
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http://hackaday.com/2014/01/23/lidar-with-leds-for-under-100/

This could be a good alternative to lidar. I dont know if it is commercially available.

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I think the time-of-flight cameras would suffice for your application and are cheaper than laser scanners (which are much more precise).

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  • $\begingroup$ What is the range of these sensors?? What about cost. $\endgroup$ – seetharaman Oct 18 '14 at 4:56
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It was really interesting to check out the Livox lidar site! The order can be placed from DJI site.

The lidar scans 3D point clouds with 200m detection range outdoors. Comparable with velodyne 32 and priced at 600 bucks.

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Robotics tony.h, please read What kind of behavior is expected of users? and How not to be a spammer. The community here tends to vote down overt self-promotion and flag it as spam. Post good, relevant answers, and if some (but not all) happen to be about your product, website or company, that’s okay. However, you must disclose your affiliation in your answers. $\endgroup$ – Mark Booth Jan 17 at 10:43

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