Sensor enables 3D imaging for drones

We've seen some interesting uses for drones before, but there are potential problems if you're using large groups in close proximity. Collisions can potentially occurs, especially in areas with interference. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute in Duisburg have developed a CMOS sensor designed to combat collisions by measuring three dimensional spaces. Each pixel is not only given a grey value, but also a distance value.

Fraunhofer say the sensor is much more effective than radar because of the higher local resolution, which lets the drones scan smaller items. Objects as small as 20 by 15 centimeters can be scanned at distances up to 7 meters, and the resulting images are sent back remotely at around 12 frames per second. The sensor even works when there's interfering light by using the time-of-flight principle, which sends out short pulses which are reflected back from objects.

The sensor only stays open for a few nanoseconds to prevent overexposure, and takes sequential images. One is taken using ambient light, and the other using the pulse sent from the sensor – the two are then compared and the differences used to determine the best output. Researchers say that all of this occurs in real time, with the sensors built into cameras built by sister company TriDiCam.

The tech is expected to be used not only for surveillance of major events, but also in disaster relief efforts and possibly even by urban planners to create 3D models of buildings and models. The sensor paired with drones is said to have the potential to save money on costly satellite images and other forms of surveillance.

[via Fraunhofer]