Imagine bouncing a burst of laser light off of something, and measuring the time it takes for the "echo" to come back. And from that tiny time interval working out the distance to the object.
You've imagined lidar! (Here's a link to the Wikipedia lidar article, which will open in a new tab.) With a little ingenuity, it can be used to create detailed maps of your immediate vicinity.
What's one cost? Entry level sensors are available at $90.
Mount one on top of a stepper motor or servo motor, as seen in Robotshop.com's image to the left, and, by sweeping an arc, taking multiple readings along the way, you can build up a map of what is in the plane that you swept with the lidar beam.
(There's more, scroll down, if you don't yet see it....)
Here's a nice grove of trees at a friend's house, viewed from where he set up his lidar- on- a- servo....
And here's the map he made with a bunch of readings of angle and distance- to- first- object, made while sweeping the sensor across 90 degrees of a horizontal plane, looking at the view above. The lidar sensor was at the lower left corner of the "map"...
Admittedly, he used a $400 module, but it operated on exactly the same principles. The $89 module (below) will create the same sort of maps, although it only has a range of 20m instead of the 60m range in the demonstrator above. And it might miss some of the thinner trees.
From Robotshop, $89 + p&p 9/15...
Range: 0-20m LED emitter Range: 0-60m Laser emitter Accuracy: +/- 0.025m Power: 5VDC, less than 100ma Rep rate: 1-100Hz Interface: I2C or PWM
From Sparkfun, $115 + p&p 9/15...
Range: 0-40m Laser Emitter Accuracy: +/- 0.025m Power: 5V DC Current Consumption: less than 100mA continuous operation Acquisition Time: less than 0.02 sec Rep Rate: 1-500Hz Interface: I2C or PWM
I think it would be cool to "play" with one of these. Of course, that would mean not spending the day writing stuff like this for you. Facebook "Likes", etc, appreciated.
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