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Developing laser-based solutions for atmospheric monitoring


How Raymetrics developed air pollution LIDARs to streamline the capabilities of atmospheric monitoring

Raymetrics has been in operation since 2002, making it one of the first atmospheric LIDAR (LIght Detection And Ranging) companies in the world. Over its lifetime, the company has developed a range of highly customisable products suitable for academic uses, commercial uses (aviation, mining, heavy industry), and operational uses (meteorology, environmental).

LIDAR is analogous to RADAR but uses light from a laser instead of radiowaves to remotely sense distant objects. As the wavelength of light is small, LIDARs can detect very small objects including tiny particles (known as aerosols) in the atmosphere.

The company is now one of the world’s largest atmospheric LIDAR manufacturers with LIDAR systems located all over the world – in North & South America, Europe, South East Asia, and Africa.

Focusing on atmospheric monitoring 

To support its development of new laser-based detection solutions for atmospheric monitoring, Raymetrics came to the University of Leicester.

Under the partnership, enabled by SPRINT funding, Raymetrics and the University of Leicester collaborated on the development of air pollution LIDARs to streamline the capabilities of atmospheric monitoring.

This project draws upon a range of key University of Leicester capabilities including: 

  • Remote Sensing Instrument Development
  • Applications of Satellite Data (in particular those relating to air quality)
  • Earth Observation and Remote Sensing (in particular laser remote sensing of the atmosphere)
  • Digital Electronics and High Speed Electronics (in particular high speed detection electronics)
  • Global Atmospheric Composition and Chemistry
  • Urban Environment Research and Pollution Transport

Impacts of SPRINT project 

The SPRINT-funded collaboration with the University of Leicester provided Raymetrics with assistance in the design of a prototype LIDAR system, assistance in selecting and characterising optimal components for the selected application and guidance on the requirements for entering the urban pollution market.

The result of the project was the development of a prototype LIDAR for operational urban pollution monitoring. 

The first ‘product-like’ system has already been delivered to European Space Agency (ESA)-funded institutes. In the next year, Raymetrics will collaborate with the ESA team to check instrument status and see if any improvements are necessary. After that, the company will focus on reducing production costs and launching the product to the public. 

Benefits achieved through the SPRINT project 

  • The company believes that 30 per cent of its revenue will come from this new product by 2027, around 700k Euros

  • Significant acceleration of the development of a compact operational LIDAR system for urban pollution monitoring. With the development of a prototype usually taking over 3-4 years, the SPRINT project reduced the development time of the prototype by half from 3 to 1.5 years

  • Data gathered within the SPRINT framework allowed the company to sell the first such system to a research institute in Italy with a value of around 60K Euros

  • Access to world-class expertise in detection electronics design significantly improved the system performance, helping the company to minimise mistakes, reduce R&D costs and times significantly including a reduction of about half a year of development time

Understanding the urban atmosphere

Dr. Georgios Georgousis, Chief Operating Officer at Raymetrics 

Dr. Georgios Georgousis, Chief Operating Officer at Raymetrics says: “We firmly believe that technology and science always move forward with collaborative work and fresh ideas. This project was a great example of such collaboration, that significantly accelerated and supported the development of a world-class LIDAR system.”

Dr. Joshua Vande Hey, Lecturer in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leicester and academic lead for the university adds: “This SPRINT project launched a new partnership with world-leader Raymetrics and learning happened in both directions. It also brought together multi-disciplinary Leicester expertise from space detection hardware (Dr Jamie Williams and Professor Jon Lapington) and Earth observation, and benefited from, and provided valuable learning and collaboration opportunities to PhD student Rebecca Howe, who said that “working with Raymetrics has been great because I got an experience of what it’s like working in tandem with industry.”

Dr. Joshua Vande Hey, Lecturer in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leicester and academic lead for the university 

Dr. Vande Hey concluded: “This system could help to provide an improved 3D understanding of air pollution in cities and assist future air quality management. We look forward to future collaboration with Raymetrics, both on instrument and data product development!”