Luminar is expanding its LiDAR system beyond autonomous vehicles for the first time and is collaborating with the world's largest aircraft manufacturer to bring laser-guided mapping and visualization technology to new heights. Luminar announced a partnership with Airbus to bring 3D laser-guided mapping technology to helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft with the goal of making flying safer.
The LiDAR system is a laser sensor that sends out millions of laser points per second and measures how long it takes to bounce off, seen as an essential component of autonomous driving. Engineers from the two companies are working together on two innovation-focused projects for the aircraft manufacturer, UpNext and FlightLab.
Luminar and Airbus hope to operate an ultimately safe and independent flight with the LiDAR system.
The founder and CEO of Luminar said, we are able to directly reapply what we have accomplished in the automotive industry in aviation, an established industry valued at nearly a trillion dollars. More than 10 percent of helicopter crashes happen by simply landing on objects, such as wires, that can be avoided altogether.
Airbus is testing takeoff and landing technology for ATTOL taxis through UpNext. It says it has completed fully autonomous test flights in 2020, and the company will likely use the LiDAR system for flying taxis as well as helicopters and aircraft. Luminar and Airbus hope to make safety improvements to existing aircraft with LiDAR, and Luminar believes its technology could help pilots avoid some accidents.
Together with Airbus, Luminar is working with several prominent automakers, as Volvo starts selling cars with LiDAR additions next year so they are fully autonomous on the highways. Luminar has also struck deals with Audi, Toyota, Mobileye, and the trucking arm of Daimler, which has invested in the company.
In addition to manufacturing giant passenger aircraft, Airbus is also interested in small battery-powered air taxis commonly referred to as urban air transportation, which are small helicopters with electric motors that can be used for short trips within cities.