More and more robots are being used in industrial environments, and personal safety in the vicinity of robots must always be ensured in these situations. Laser scanners are normally used to detect nearby persons, but they do not work well under some conditions. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute have developed a new panoramic radar scanner that is much more accurate.
The radar scanner operates in the millimeter-wave range, and the transmit and receive signals are processed using numerical algorithms. This allows not only the distance and position of persons to be determined, but also their speed. The millimeter-wave signals allow the radar to see through dust and smoke. Even if a person hides behind crates or boxes, the radar can still detect them.
Up to now radar systems of this sort have been large and expensive. The new scanner is just 20 cm in diameter and 70 mm high. The RF circuitry is located in the base of the device, and a rotating mirror at the top provides a panoramic scan range. The resolution of the scanner is less than a micron.