High-resolution, real-time three-dimensional imaging

Center: Goddard Space Flight Center

Category: Optics

Patent: 8,547,531

Inventor: Michael A. Krainak


NASA Technology Page

Invention Overview:

An apparatus and method for three-dimensional range imaging, like Google Earth.  This technology utilizes a lens system to illuminate an object with an array of optical spots to generate a topographic profile.  This system improves on both Scanning LiDAR systems and Flash LiDAR systems by producing real-time three-dimensional images at television frame rates (30 frames per second)



System/subsystem/component validation in relevant environment: Thorough testing of prototyping in representative environment. Basic technology elements integrated with reasonably realistic supporting elements. Prototyping implementations conform to target environment and interfaces.



Robotic vision and guidance, surface characterization, terrestrial surveying, vehicle collision avoidance, medical imaging, remote sensing (ie. LiDAR mapping)



  • Simple design: the invention does not require scanning or moving parts to produce high resolution images.
  • Greatly improved system efficiency and reduced crosstalk: the physical separation of spots in the object plane using a a microlens to generate an array of equal intensity improves efficiency and reduces crosstalk between pixels.

Invention Disadvantages and Possible Mitigation:

Crowded market for 3-D range imaging.  Technology must prove to be distinctively differentiated than current offerings