At the beginning of September, Integrated Optics launched a new R&D project LASAS, which is funded by the European Union Support Program ‘Intelektas. Bendri mokslo-verslo projektai’ (‘Intelligence. Joint Scientific-Business Projects’) and administered by VsI ‘Lietuvos verslo paramos agentura’ (Public Enterprise ‘Lithuanian Business Support Agency’).
With the creation of laser distance measurement and environmental scanning technologies (LiDAR - Light Detection and Ranging), a revolution in a number of industries is rapidly taking place. Tools and technologies used in construction, mining, road construction, geodesy, air pollution control, and many other areas are changing essentially. LiDAR technology has led to the emergence of completely new areas such as autonomous vehicles: cars, trucks and airplanes/drones. The absolute majority of these applications require the most compact and easily reproduced laser sources. For a part of them pulse-controlled laser diodes, capable of generating a pulse of up to 100 W of peak power at short intervals of time (typically about 1-10 nanosecond pulses), are fully sufficient - such solutions are suitable for scanning objects within a short distance (typically, up to 100 m). However, applications that need to scan at a distance of 500 m or more require more powerful lasers, which generate pulses of kilowatt or hundreds of kilowatts peak power. Lasers generating high peak power (> 1 kW) 20 kHz - 1 MHz repetition frequency pulses are typically bulky, heavy and very expensive. In the LiDAR system, the laser has the greatest impact on its weight, dimensions, power consumption, excess heat release and price, which causes a lot of challenges for manufacturers and integrators of such systems and limits the affordability of LiDAR solutions. For this reason, there is an urgent need for compact, lightweight, electrically efficient and relatively inexpensive laser sources for LiDAR systems.
Integrated Optics has already set a foundation in this area. The company has developed a range of passive Q-Switch type micro-lasers for conventional scanning LiDARs systems, an official launch of additional products is scheduled for the year 2019. The accumulated knowledge has prompted Integrated Optics’ engineers to take on a new project with the following aims: create a series of short-pulse lasers at least with matching parameters for lasers sources already available on the market; to develop a higher level of production process automation - something that has not been demonstrated in production of lasers in this category yet. And as usual, Integrated Optics’ products stand for a benchmark of compactness. During the project Integrated Optics plans to expand R&D infrastructure, mastering knowledge of fiber optic laser technologies and develop products that will enhance the competitiveness of the company, the country, and the region in the area of LiDAR applications.