Nalu Scientific LLC (NSL) proposes to design and build the Single-photon-sensitive Waveform Enhanced and Lightweight Lidar (SWELL). This novel device will improve upon current Lidar technology by being low-cost, low-power, and highly compact. This will be accomplished by leveraging NSL’s extremely high timing precision waveform sampling and digital integration technology. NSL has developed several application specific integrated circuits (ASICs) with built-in digital signal processing and control interfaces that could make extremely precise time of flight (ToF) single-photon measurements of back-scattered laser light pulses for use in orbiting or aerial LIDAR applications. The integration of sampling and feature extraction onto a single ASIC will reduce the required printed circuit board (PCB) complexity and eliminate the need for an expensive and power-hungry Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA). This will save power, space, and cost for implementing high-precision LIDAR systems.
Future NASA scientific missions will require remote sensing equipment with lower power, smaller form factors, increased robustness, and higher sensitivities. Integration of Lidar systems into a system-on-chip ASIC would achieve these goals and be of interest in numerous applications. Possible uses range from high-beam-count orbital Lidar imaging systems to high-precision and low power imaging sensors for planetary missions.
The trend for commercial satellite payloads has been towards CubeSat scale devices. These devices allow for significantly reduced timelines and catastrophic risks. However, current generations of Earth imaging Lidar are not compact enough for CubeSat applications. Our technology would provide a product that could be utilized by a variety of industries interested in orbital geospatial mapping.