19 May 2015 Laser safety in design of near-infrared scanning LIDARs
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3D LIDARs (Light Detection and Ranging) with 1.5μm nanosecond pulse lasers have been increasingly used in different applications. The main reason for their popularity is that these LIDARs have high performance while at the same time can be made eye-safe. Because the laser hazard effect on eyes or skin at this wavelength region (<1.4μm) is mainly from the thermal effect accumulated from many individual pulses over a period of seconds, scanning can effectively reduce the laser beam hazard effect from the LIDARs. Neptec LIDARs have been used in docking to the International Space Station, military helicopter landing and industrial mining applications. We have incorporated the laser safety requirements in the LIDAR design and conducted laser safety analysis for different operational scenarios. While 1.5μm is normally said to be the eye-safe wavelength, in reality a high performance 3D LIDAR needs high pulse energy, small beam size and high pulse repetition frequency (PRF) to achieve long range, high resolution and high density images. The resulting radiant exposure of its stationary beam could be many times higher than the limit for a Class 1 laser device. Without carefully choosing laser and scanning parameters, including field-of-view, scan speed and pattern, a scanning LIDAR can’t be eye- or skin-safe based only on its wavelength. This paper discusses the laser safety considerations in the design of eye-safe scanning LIDARs, including laser pulse energy, PRF, beam size and scanning parameters in two basic designs of scanning mechanisms, i.e. galvanometer based scanner and Risley prism based scanner. The laser safety is discussed in terms of device classification, nominal ocular hazard distance (NOHD) and safety glasses optical density (OD).
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X. Zhu, D. Elgin, "Laser safety in design of near-infrared scanning LIDARs", Proc. SPIE 9465, Laser Radar Technology and Applications XX; and Atmospheric Propagation XII, 946504 (19 May 2015); doi: 10.1117/12.2176998; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2176998

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