Drones Adopt LiDAR Sensor Altimeters

BLOG – Just like any sophisticated flying devices, UAS need to know at what altitude above ground they are, allowing for smooth take-off and landing, stable hovering, and for maintaining a safe distance from the ground during flights, especially when operating at lower altitudes.

Leading commercial drone vendors are starting to integrate specific distance sensors that perform as altimeters and complement the on-board navigational equipment. And the LeddarOne sensor in particular is attracting the industry’s attention.

The LeddarOne is an optical detection and ranging sensor which provides accurate and reliable distance measurements over a typical range of >10 m (and up to 40m on reflective surfaces). More specifically, it is a single-element, solid-state LiDAR which uses the time of flight of a light pulse emitted by its LED source to measure the distance between the drone and the ground or another object below. The small sensor is typically installed under the drone’s body pointing vertically towards the ground at a 90-degree angle.

One of the first UAV manufacturer that has leveraged the advanced capabilities of the LeddarOne is Draganfly Innovations Inc., which integrated the LeddarOne optical rangefinder as a standard feature of its new model, the Draganflyer Commander.



Integrated into the drone’s underbody, the ranging sensor provides a safe and reliable mean to automatically and smoothly take-off and land the aircraft. The sensor is fully integrated into the autopilot system working in conjunction with a precision barometric sensor to provide the best in altitude performance.

Equipped with a LeddarOne, the Draganflyer Commander relies on precise, true height above ground level (AGL) measurements that are not affected by external factors such as noise, vibrations, or lighting conditions.

Image 1- The Draganflyer Commander integrates the LeddarOne optical rangefinder into its main body to provide reliable above-ground-level (AGL) height measurements to the auto-pilot system.


Greg Wood, Head Design Engineer, comments on the benefits of the LeddarOne sensor: “The Leddar technology is perfectly suited for UAS requirements: its precise, compact, and lightweight. Plus, the Leddar form factor made it easy to integrate into our new Commander design. The measurements provided by the sensor enable controlled auto take-off and landings, even in the most challenging conditions”.

Providing redundancy for altitude measurements also has many advantages. While on-board equipment (such as the GPS and barometer) generally provides very useful information during flights, they aren’t full-proof and can’t be relied upon when navigating indoors, in urban canyons, or around and into complex structures. In those situations, the drone and its pilot can rely on the distance measurements provided by the optical rangefinder to navigate and land safely.

As the LeddarOne is making its mark in the drone industry, multi-segment Leddar sensors like Leddar Vu8 -which provide a wide field of view and multi-object measurement capability- are being foreseen as a very promising technology to address another key challenge: enabling cost-efficient obstacle detection and avoidance capabilities in large-volume commercial drones.

Find out more on LiDAR solutions for drones and UAVs at www.leddartech.com/drone