LiDAR embedded technology to implement Social Distancing, the new normal after COVID-19
As COVID-19 wages on, government, health experts, industries and other organisations discuss how to safely allow people to go back to a new kind of normal. One of the main concerns is how companies, industry and public place can keep people far enough apart to carry out social distancing guidelines. Some companies and health-techs have deployed wearables that emit sounds if people at worksites get too close to each other. Another possibility to implement social distancing norms is application of LiDAR Technology.
Light Detection And Ranging or LiDAR is a remote sensing technology that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges (distances) to a target. A LiDAR sensor fires off beams of laser light and then measures how long it takes for the light to return to the sensor. This technology depends on both mechanical and solid-state light detection and ranging (LiDAR) sensors.
In the JU UAV Innovators' lab, we are working on the combination of LiDAR with Drones as a means to implement Social Distancing: the new normal, in open public places. Drones offer mobility and time-efficiency with wide coverage areas. By implementing LiDAR embedded in drone, it becomes easy to monitor social distancing from the sky! The drone embedded LiDAR sends low-powered laser pulses out and measures the time required for one to make a round trip between a sensor and the target. Based on the time of flight measurement, the algorithm, which being developed by the UAV Innovators' team, aggregates that data and uses it to create a cloud image made of 3D points to visualize the objects, i.e., the people and other things present in the environment. These points show both the object's position in space as well as depth information. From the visualization, it becomes possible to accurately estimate the distance between to persons.
The LiDAR based system is far more preferable over contemporary technologies like the cameras when privacy is an important issue. The point cloud gathers data about moving and static objects and does so continuously in real-time. Visualization is only the representation of the point cloud location. Such approach does not exploit the privacy of the people, their identity or any other information irrelevant to social distancing.
Advantages of LiDAR :
LiDAR (Laser radar) is useful in that it can easily be used to check the distance of objects, whereas such an approach with computer vision involves at least two cameras seeing the same pixel, which might be impossible due to occlusions.
LiDAR has limited number of sensor than can covered broad area.
Combining the advantages of Drones with LiDAR thus offers ample applications in terms of Public safety, Crowd management and Social or Physical distancing during and after COVID-19.
The system, our team is currently working on, will be able to do the following:
Count people so that public people does not exceed maximum capacity.
Dispatch cleaning services based on actual use.
Reduce crowding by posting real time wait time online.
Maintain social distancing.
Measure crowd density.
Any comments and suggestions are always welcome. Also, we are open for collaborating with enthusiastic and dedicated candidates. Do contact us if you are interested.