Skip navigation

Laser altimetry for manned and unmanned aircraft

For use measuring height above ground level in fixed-wing and rotary aircraft.

Our laser altimeters are used in planes, helicopters and UAVs, to measure the distance of the aircraft from the ground, to identify obstacles, and to support accurate flights and landings.

Reliability and configurability

Crop spraying airplane

Renishaw laser sensor modules vary in range capability to suit individual applications. From low-flying crop spraying to integrated systems for Assisted Take Off and Landing (ATOL) for unmanned aerial surveillance vehicles.

While our modules are frequently combined with a cockpit display, and can work as stand-alone units to give a fully functioning end-user system, they are also designed to give the reliability and configurability required by OEMs.

Solutions for unique projects

Because our altimeters are often used for innovative projects that involve bringing together a broad range of technologies, our research and development team now has many years of experience working with OEMs to identify requirements, advise on options and discuss options for customisation.

We have the scale and resources to supply a range of solutions to OEMs, including:

  • Single units for research and development programmes
  • A wide range of modules as standard
  • Negotiating large-quantity orders and long-term supply agreements as required

We also work with OEMs to develop innovative new projects to provide customised modules.

Lightweight and compact

The lightweight and compact design of our modules, has made them an especially popular choice for integration into both fixed-wing and rotary UAVs.

Renishaw modules can be used as a source of information that allows the aircraft control system to calculate:

  • Height (direct from the laser)
  • Rate of descent (by monitoring the height over time)
  • Height during banked manoeuvres (by using ranging information from the laser together with information from tilt sensors)

More than one laser can be mounted onto the same aircraft, or onto a towed bird system, to provide information that can be used to monitor tilt.

How it works

Alp Aviation Sikorsky helicopter

Our pencil-beam modules determine the distance of the craft from the ground by measuring the time-of-flight of a short flash of infrared laser radiation.

The module emits invisible, eye-safe laser pulses, which travel to the ground, where they are reflected. Part of the reflected radiation returns to the laser altimeter, is detected, and stops a time counter which was started when the pulse was sent out. The distance is calculated and output via RS232 serial communications. Other options are available.