Stalker Blog / Shining a Light on Lidar

Shining a Light on Lidar

A Brief History of Lidar

The foundational concept of measuring how long it takes light to bounce off an object and then return to the observer and then converting that into a measure of distance, or “Lidar”, was first theorized in 1930 by EH Synge. He used searchlights to study the atmosphere, and then in 1938, his concept was used to start measuring the height of clouds.

The invention of the laser in the late 1950’s was what really started to open the door to utilizing light for measurement. In 1961, Hughes Aircraft Company introduced a system that used pulses of light to track the position of satellites. In the 1970’s, more Lidar advancement was made in aeronautics, including utilizing it to map the surface of the moon. By the 1980’s, it began to be utilized in more commercial and consumer-oriented products, such as crop management, discovering archeological ruins in dense jungles, and even in recreating historical monuments for virtual tours.

Lidar and the Law

In 1989, Lidar was first utilized in law enforcement with the introduction of the first police Lidar gun. Since then, the technology has been refined to produce handheld Lidar units that are small, lightweight, and extremely accurate even at distances of over a mile. Since 2006, around 30% of newly purchased police speed detection devices have been Lidar.

Advantages of Lidar for Law Enforcement?

  • Individualized speed tracking. Because Lidar produces a narrow beam (at 1000’ it tracks a circular area with a diameter of approximately 36”), it can track the speed of a single car, even if there is a lot of traffic.
  • It is fast. Nothing travels faster than the speed of light, so with Lidar, you are able to get speed readings in 0.33 seconds or less.
  • The small beam size of Lidar often allows officers to clock the speed of oncoming vehicles without triggering any Lidar detectors they may have (or setting off any other Lidar detectors in the area).
  • Lidar can’t be jammed. Not only can it sneak past many Lidar detectors, but drivers are also not able to “jam” the Lidar beam. Once the officer targets a vehicle with their Lidar gun, they will get a near-instant result, no matter what evasive measures the driver may be attempting to use.
  • No tuning forks required. Radar units require regular calibration to ensure that they track speeds effectively. Aside from a quick daily system check, Lidar has no other daily upkeep, and very simple twice-yearly system calibrations.


It’s About More Than Just Speed

One of the best aspects of Lidar is that it is able to deliver so much more than simple speed data. Some available features offered in various Lidar guns include:

  • Following Too Close Mode – many police Lidar guns (such as the Stalker RLR) give officers the ability to accurately measure the distance between vehicles. Around 33% of all accidents are rear-end collisions– many of which could be easily prevented if drivers maintained the proper distance between themselves and the vehicle in front of them.
  • School/Construction Zone Mode – All Stalker Lidar guns include the option of a <school/construction zone mode> that allows the officer to program the boundaries of a school or work zone into the device in order to accurately track if drivers are reducing their speeds in the areas of your city where speeding is the most dangerous.
  • Police Lidar guns can be paired cameras and ALPR/ANPR technology to read record photo evidence of drivers and license plates, paired with the location, time, and date of their speed violation. It is much more difficult to argue against a speeding ticket if there is photo evidence!


Interesting Facts:

Unlike radar, which is regulated by the FCC, Lidar is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States.

It has been anecdotally observed that judges give more credence to Lidar speeding tickets in court than to radar speeding tickets.

Even though lidar technology has been around since the 1960’s, there is still no consensus on exactly how the word should be written- or even about exactly what the acronym stands for. Some places write it as “LIDAR,” others as “LiDAR,” some use “Lidar,” while others follow radar’s lead and simply write “lidar.” Depending on who you ask, Lidar is an acronym for “LIght Detection And Ranging” or “Laser Imaging Detection And Ranging.”


You can check out all of Stalker Radar’s handheld police Lidar guns by clicking here, and you can view our LidarCam II that combines the power of Lidar with the indisputable evidence of photos and video by clicking here.

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