Rugged solid state lidar system for mining
Quanergy is rolling out lidar made to handle harsh vibrations Metal Tech News – March 31, 2021
Last updated 4/6/2021 at 4:40pm
From mapping prospective ground for mineral exploration to guiding autonomous ore hauling trucks, lidar has emerged as an invaluable tool to the global mining sector. For any technology to be adopted by mining, however, it must be rugged enough to stand up to the rigors of an industry that earns its keep by drilling, blasting, hauling, and crushing billions of tons of rock each year to recover the valuable minerals and metals locked up inside.
Silicon Valley-based Quanergy Systems Inc. is rolling out a series of solid state lidar sensors made to handle the type of jarring vibrations that could knock traditional lidar out of commission.
S Series solid state lidar is the newest product offered by Quanergy, a company that has provided many of the lidars being used for drone-based mapping, a tool increasingly used for mineral exploration.
Quanergy Chief Marketing Officer Enzo Signore says range is critical for drone-mounted lidar mapping applications.
"When we take that application to mining, we need to have the same requirements, because we are still mapping, but the biggest additional requirement is going to be on vibration – because we are dealing now with a very harsh mechanical environment," he told Metal Tech News. "Solid state architecture and technology is absolutely critical for this environment."
To stand up to these harsh conditions, Quanergy has developed optical phaser array solid state sensor technology, a silicon chip-mounted lidar sensor that does not use mechanical moving parts to sweep the field with lasers to provide a picture of the surrounding environment.
Because there are no moving parts, these solid state sensors are virtually indestructible and use less power than traditional lidar.
"Every time they use some sort of mechanical device, that mechanical device is bound to wear out and is bound to break over time, and that is the reason why the reliability of traditional systems tends to be very low," said Enzo. "Since it is digital, there is nothing that can break. Because of this, we can provide over 100,000 hours mean time between failure."
With this technology, a Quanergy lidar device that is smaller than the average smartphone mounted on mining equipment can provide a detailed image of the terrain, people, and other equipment.
"This is done many, many times a second so we can have a very precise 3D image of the world around the mining equipment," Enzo said when talking about the digital sweep of the S Series lidar. "We can use this information to control the movement of the mining equipment and also provide a very precise 3D map of the mine itself."
Built-in perception software allows Quanergy's lidar sensors to carry out intelligent processes to determine the distance, type, and movements of the people, vehicles, or landscape detected.
This data can be delivered to third-party software for autonomous navigation, as well as obstacle detection and avoidance systems in both manned and driverless equipment.
Quanergy currently has a shorter range solid state lidar sensor on the market and expects to have a version with the range needed for autonomous equipment applications ready for market by the end of the year.
"There is a lot of interest now for manufacturers of mining equipment to put this sensor on top of their equipment," said Enzo.
Being built on a silicon chip is expected to quickly drive down the cost of solid state lidar sensors.
Though mining is not expected to be a huge contributor to volume early on, Enzo foresees much higher volumes as more and more operations and applications adopt the more rugged solid state technology. This, coupled with larger volume markets such as passenger vehicles, is expected to rapidly push down the costs of coming longer-range versions of Quanergy lidar.
Enzo says Quanergy solid state lidar systems, offer "truly safe, disruptive, price-performance characteristics to the mining sensing business."