Although ABSL is developing the technology primarily for space use - to allow space probes to land more safely and navigate a planet’s surface - LIDAR has a huge range of possible applications back here on earth that directly affect our day to day lives. When LIDAR is air-borne or even mounted on a satellite looking at the earth, it can be used to monitor our world in impressive detail. Its ability to very accurately measure the height of the land will be of use in earthquake zones to assess the impact of a quake, for example. The challenge of accurately tracking large scale problems such oil slicks, de-forestation and land use patterns is possible.
The system works by shooting out a laser beam which is rapidly steered by a moving mirror in order to map the landscape ahead – in much the same way a TV picture is built up by shooting a scanning beam of energy at the back of the tube.
After shooting the laser beam, the system then looks for reflected light bouncing back. Although the reflected light is extremely weak, by using sophisticated electronics and software, ABSL’s LIDAR can work out how far away an object is and even the surface details of an object. By changing the colour of the laser it’s even possible to work out what the laser has been shown through – a powerful tool for monitoring atmospheric pollution and CO2 levels. Ultimately, the company believes the technology could be made small and cheap enough to allow vehicles to automatically prevent collisions – and even permit robots to better understand their environment and interact with us.
The recent breakthrough developments however were made possible by the assistance of MEPC at Milton Park. ABSL needed an indoor area big enough to refine and test their system and MEPC Milton Park kindly agreed to the use of one of their largest warehouses; Building 188 (69,000 sq ft) which is currently available to let. “This is a great example of local business working together”, said Mike Lawton, ABSL’s Business Development Manager. “Without the support of Milton Park, just a couple of miles away from us, we certainly would not have our LIDAR system developed to stage we’re currently at”.
James Dipple, Managing Director of MEPC Milton Park “Milton Park has a reputation for being home to and supporting some of the most exciting science and technology companies in the UK. This partly due to the way in which we are always willing to assist businesses, whether they are currently a customer or not. Offering one of available warehouses for this project allowed ABSL progress their development and is a genuine example of how MEPC can go beyond the normal role of a landlord to help companies”.
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