Velodyne Puck 32MR review

by Gert Riemersma, CTO Mapix technologies Ltd

Velodyne recently released the Puck 32MR LiDAR scanner (otherwise known as the VLP-32MR), a variation of the existing Ultra Puck (VLP-32C) model. At Mapix technologies Ltd, an established Velodyne distributor working with LiDAR since 2008, we always test and review each new product as it enters the market. Understanding each product’s capabilities and limitations enables us to recommend the best sensor for each customer application. In this review we have assessed the Puck 32MR and compared it to other sensors in the Velodyne range.

1. Assessment of the Puck 32MR

This mid range LiDAR sensor provides exceptional resolution with 32 lasers, a narrow beam separation, a broad field of view and 120 metre range. The result is a sensor which produces a point cloud with minimal noise, best in class accuracy and calibrated intensity, all at a very competitive price.

Independent testing by Mapix technologies

Mapix technologies have evaluated the Puck 32MR at our own test location in Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland. Over the years we have tested numerous LiDAR scanners, including the complete Velodyne product range. Tests are all performed at the exact same spot so that we can make a direct comparison of the performance of each scanner. The test location was specifically chosen as it offers many of the objects that end users may wish to detect, map or analyse. Located in an urban setting, the test location has a busy road with pedestrians and a regular flow of traffic including public buses. The scanners are set up on a bridge spanning a river and it is overlooked by a variety of different buildings, this feature-rich test location enables us to analyse the capability of each sensor.

 


The Mapix technologies test location in Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland.


Point cloud view of the Mapix technologies test location.

To enable a direct comparison between different scanners we undertake a series of scans which includes a variety of different objects visible at different ranges, such as pedestrians at 5m, 20m and 30m, double decker buses at 9m and 30m, and cars at 10m and 20m range. From these scans, we determine the number of scan lines and hits on each targeted object. We analyse the buildings visible in the scans as this provides a useful indication of the scanner’s capability with respect to range and reflectivity. There are several distinct buildings made of different materials and coatings, including a white rendered building overlooking the river which allows us to give a good estimate of the maximum range capability of the scanner in an urban setting.

Results: Range confirmed as 120m

The range that we achieved with the Puck 32MR was 120m, exactly as specified by Velodyne. What we observed is that there is a distinct cut-off at this range, which is clearly seen when compared to the Ultra Puck, as shown below.


Puck 32MR still showing a strong return at 120m


Ultra Puck at a range of 200m

With most LiDAR scanners you may see a variation in the maximum range that can be achieved due to, for instance, the reflectivity of an object. However, with the Puck 32MR this is not the case as the lasers are still quite powerful at 120m, resulting in a very high likelihood of getting a strong return. The explanation of this is straight forward: the Puck 32MR is a copy of the Ultra Puck except with a firmware modification throttling the range of the scanner. A marked difference in range performance is reflected in the price of the Puck 32MR, this being significantly lower and thus providing exceptionally good value to those users who operate within a range of 120m.

Summary: High quality mid-range LiDAR sensor

The Puck 32MR stands out from the growing number of available scanners from Velodyne and competitors. It is a high resolution 360 degree scanner which provides a rich and detailed point cloud at ranges up to 120m. The 32 lasers provides good coverage over the 40 degree vertical Field of View, the lasers at the centre are spaced at 0.33 degrees, ensuring that any object that is imaged is able to be detected and classified. The Puck 32MR has interference mitigation features built in to ensure it is ready for a time in the near future when multiple LiDAR equipped autonomous vehicles will be on the road at the same time.

Applications for the Velodyne Puck 32MR

The Puck 32MR is suitable for applications which need robust and high resolution 3D perception, precise real-time localisation and object detection in the mid range. The sensor has advanced features for minimising false positives, and is power efficient.

Automotive: exceptional for use in urban areas where the volume of traffic and the built environment restrict the range at which objects can be perceived; can be used to detect objects such as crosswalks, curbs and obstacles
Industrial robotics: such as obstacle avoidance in warehouse aisles for safe and efficient navigation
Marine: manoeuvering of vessels at close range in ports
Security: particularly where the alarm zone is in a confined space; high fidelity and resolution enabling easy fusion with CCTV imagery.

Mapix test dataset available

To receive a copy of the Mapix technologies test dataset created for the Puck 32MR complete the form below. Please note these are extremely large files in pcap format and as such they can be viewed in VeloView software.

Complete here to request the dataset

 

2. Sensor comparison across the Velodyne product range

a. Puck 32MR v Puck (VLP-16)

The Puck 32MR is a much higher performance LiDAR scanner than the Puck, which we consider the entry level scanner in the Velodyne product range. With double the number of lasers, the Puck 32MR generates double the number of data points than the Puck. In addition, the narrower spacing between beams provides much higher resolution with the Puck 32MR, in particular at the centre of the Field of View. The range of the Puck 32MR is good to 120m, whilst the Puck has a measurement range of up to 100m, the usable range very much depends on the reflectivity of the object being scanned.


Returns received scanning a double-decker bus at 9 metres using a Puck


Returns received scanning a double-decker bus at 9 metres using a Puck 32MR


Puck person scanned at 10 metres


Puck 32MR person scanned at 10 metres

Leveraging your Puck before upgrading to a Puck 32MR

The Puck allows a user to experiment and become familiar with the capabilities of powerful 360 degree LiDAR scanners at a low price point.

For those on a tight budget who are unable to afford a Puck 32MR, there is a way to leverage extra performance from your Puck before upgrading, this includes for example: reducing the rotational speed of the scanner to 5Hz, thus improving the horizontal resolution; enabling dual return; aggregating several scans to ensure that small objects falling in between the laser beams are still detected. This technique works in low speed dynamic environments, where the displacement between successive scans is small. It should be noted that this technique will reduce the effective update rate of the scanner. At higher speeds the ‘noise’ and uncertainty created by aggregating scans becomes impractical and this is the time to consider an upgrade to the Puck 32MR.

b. Puck 32MR v Ultra Puck

If you require longer range than 120 metres then the Ultra Puck is the scanner of choice giving a range of up to 200m. At the maximum range of 200m the Ultra Puck still provides a reasonable vertical offset between laser beams, which at the centre of the Field of View equates to a beam separation of 1.15m, which is sufficient to detect a mid sized object.

Due to the 200m range the Ultra Puck commands a higher price than the Puck 32MR, which for applications which require high speed object detection or imaging of the surrounding area out to 200m is a premium worth paying.

Both the Ultra Puck and Puck 32MR scanners are built with automotive grade components and have a small form factor and are light weight at 803 grammes. They are Class 1 eye safe, and are CE Certified. The scanners have been extensively field tested and are proving popular in the autonomous car and shuttle market.

c. Key comparisons across scanners in the Velodyne product range

Puck

Puck 32MR

Ultra Puck

HDL-32

Price

£

££

£££

£££

Max range

100m

120m

200m

80m

Number of lasers

16

32

32

32

Horizontal Field of View (FoV)

360°

360°

360°

360°

Vertical Field of View

30°

40°

40°

41.33°

Horizontal Resolution

0.1°-0.4°

0.1°-0.4°

0.1°-0.4°

0.08°-0.33°

Vertical Resolution

2.0°

0.33°

0.33°

1.33°

Points per Second (Single Return Mode)

~ 300,000

~ 600,000

~ 600,000

~ 695,000

Points per Second (Dual Return Mode)

~ 600,000

~ 1,200,000

~ 1,200,000

~ 1,390,000

Weight

~830 g

~925 g

~925 g

~1.0 kg

Download the full Velodyne Lidar Product Comparision Guide 

 

d. Recommended applications across scanners in the Velodyne product range

Application

Puck

Puck 32MR

Ultra Puck

HDL-32

Automotive

Yes

Yes

Low speed shuttles in confined areas

Yes

Yes

Yes

Industrial robots

Yes

Yes

Marine

Yes

Yes

Yes

Security

Yes

Yes

Yes

Survey & Mapping

(Terrestrial & UAV)

Yes

UAV collision avoidance

Yes

Yes

Survey & Mapping: We continue to recommend the Velodyne HDL-32. This scanner has a much higher range accuracy than the Ultra Puck or Puck 32MR, which is by far the most important factor in this application. The low noise of the scanner makes it easier to post-process the data and enables small objects and terrain undulations to be easily detected.

UAV collision avoidance: When using LiDAR for mid air collision avoidance, then the Ultra Puck is good when you have a high closing speed and as such a long reaction and avoidance time is necessary. So the Puck is good when the closing speed is much lower. The higher the closing speed the longer the detection range required. Another factor to consider is the size of the object to detect and avoid, with the Ultra Puck providing the ability to detect smaller objects at longer ranges.

e. Comparison summary

In conclusion the Velodyne Puck 32MR is a 32 channel, mid range LiDAR scanner, which is restricted to 120m, but has good returns at this range. It is positioned in between the low cost Puck and the more expensive, higher range 200m Ultra Puck. If you are looking for a scanner for automotive, industrial robotics, marine or security applications and you only need a range of 120 metres, then the Velodyne VLP-32MR is priced very competitively and worth a closer look.

Please contact us to see how LiDAR can make a difference to your project. Visit www.mapix.com for more information or call +44 (0)131 513 9608.

Mapix test dataset available

To receive a copy of the Mapix technologies test dataset created for the Puck 32MR complete the form below. Please note these are extremely large files in pcap format and as such they can be viewed in VeloView software.

Complete here to request the Puck 32MR dataset

Contact us

About the author

Gert Riemersma is founder and CTO of Mapix technologies and has been working with LiDAR since 2008. Based in Edinburgh, Scotland with a rapidly growing team specialising in LiDAR technology and integration. Mapix are the official distributors for Velodyne in UK, Ireland, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

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