The idea of using light to measure distance is a bit mind-boggling, knowing that light travels at 186,000 miles a second, seems like it would be nearly impossible to measure distance accurately from one point to another however by combining a laser packaged with a photo sensor coupled with a very fast microcontroller, we can measure distance from one point to another down to a couple centimeters. One such product is the Garmin LIDAR-Lite v3HP (Digi-Key Part No. 1568-1867-ND) which is a High-speed Optical Distant Measurement Sensor with the following features:
This LIDAR is an ideal solution for use in drones, robots and or unmanned vehicles, or any device you can think of that may need an accurate distance measurement. It can even be used like radar to create topographic maps by a sweeping or a spinning motion and collecting distance points to display a picture.
A project I used for a display at SparkFun’s AVC (Digi-Key sponsored the event) and for displaying a project at Maker Faire New York, I combined some of our parts into a project, putting together the use of a SparkFun Red board edge (1568-1871-ND), the LIDAR (1568-1867-ND) a giant keyboard push button switch (1568-1907-ND), 3 large LED seven segment displays (1568-1912-ND) all housed into a Digi-Key cardboard box.
Looking at the figure below, when you press the large orange button, a program loaded into the UNO Red Board Edge (shown behind the clear plexiglass below the Digi-Key logo), takes a measurement and displays the distance on the large LEDs (showing a measurement of 18 centimeters) For more information how this project was created click this link.