How to Build Your First Autonomous Robot with LiDAR Technology

Imagine having your own autonomous robot navigating its environment, performing tasks, and making decisions independently. This might seem like a concept straight out of a sci-fi movie, but with LiDAR technology, you can turn this vision into reality. In this blog post, we’ll guide you through the process of how to build your first autonomous robot using LiDAR technology, covering everything from understanding the basics of autonomous robots to testing and troubleshooting your creation.

Key Takeaways

  • Autonomous robots rely on LiDAR data to sense their environment and take appropriate actions.

  • Careful planning, design, assembly, programming and testing are necessary for the successful operation of an autonomous robot with LiDAR technology.

  • Legal and ethical considerations as well as regular maintenance must be taken into account in order to ensure safe operation of such a robot.

Understanding Autonomous Robots

A lidar sensor mounted on an autonomous robot

Autonomous robots are machines capable of performing tasks without direct human intervention, relying on their ability to sense their environment and take appropriate actions based on the gathered data, including LiDAR data.

LiDAR sensors, including topographic lidar, have become increasingly popular in applications such as advanced driver assistance systems, object detection in autonomous vehicles, and creating digital elevation models, where acquiring lidar data, including lidar point cloud data, is essential for accurate navigation and safety. A lidar instrument principally consists of these lidar sensors, which enable the collection of lidar data. With lidar data collected, these systems can provide precise information for various industries.

Types of Autonomous Robots

Autonomous robots can be broadly categorized into:

  • Ground robots: utilized for goods-to-person picking, self-driving forklifts, and underride robots

  • Aerial robots: employed for aerial surveillance, mapping, and delivery purposes

  • Aquatic robots: designed to operate in various natural and manmade environments

Aquatic robots, on the other hand, are applied for underwater exploration, monitoring, and data collection, with some of them using bathymetric LiDAR for underwater mapping.

Components of an Autonomous Robot

How a LiDAR system works

Image Source

An autonomous robot typically comprises:

  • A power source, which supplies energy

  • Sensors, which enable the robot to sense its surroundings using various remote sensing methods, such as LiDAR

  • Actuators, which allow the robot to interact with its environment

  • A control system, which processes sensor data and sends commands to the actuators

These components work together to enable the robot to operate autonomously.

Actuators facilitate the robot’s movements, and the control system processes the data from the sensors and regulates the actuators.

LiDAR Technology for Autonomous Robots

A diagram of a lidar system with a laser pulse being emitted

Image source

LiDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, is a remote sensing method that uses laser pulse emissions to measure distances and generate 3D maps of the surrounding area. Autonomous robots benefit from the accuracy and versatility of LiDAR systems, including the use of a lidar instrument, in mapping and navigation, making it a popular choice for various applications.

Benefits of Using LiDAR Sensors

One of the main advantages of using LiDAR sensors is their high accuracy and precision in object detection, as well as the generation of point cloud data. Real-time data processing and the ability to function in various lighting conditions are also significant benefits of employing LiDAR technology.

This enables the robot to navigate its environment efficiently and reliably.

Choosing the Right LiDAR Sensor

Factors such as range, resolution, and cost should be taken into account when selecting a LiDAR sensor for your autonomous robot. Different types of LiDAR sensors exist, including:

  • Mechanical scanning LiDAR

  • Solid-state LiDAR

  • Flash LiDAR

  • Time-of-flight (ToF) LiDAR

  • Frequency-modulated continuous wave (FMCW) LiDAR

The choice of the right LiDAR sensor will depend on your robot’s specific requirements and budget.

Building Your First Autonomous Robot: Step-by-Step Guide

A robot being assembled

Now that we have covered the basics of autonomous robots and LiDAR technology, it’s time to dive into the process of building your first autonomous robot. This step-by-step guide will assist you in planning and designing your robot, assembling the hardware, and programming it.

Planning and Designing Your Robot

Initially, the purpose of your robot should be determined, which is dependent on the tasks it’s designed to perform. Once you have a clear objective, you can select the necessary components, such as sensors, actuators, and microcontrollers. Keep in mind the size, weight, and specific environmental conditions your robot will encounter.

With these factors considered, create a blueprint for your robot’s design, ensuring that all components are optimally arranged and integrated.

For this article, we’re using a Slamtec RPLIDAR A1M8 that we picked up from amazon to work with our Raspberry Pi 4. But there are a huge variety of different senors out there.

Assembling the Hardware

Test setup with a raspberry pi and the Slamtec LiDAR

Once the design is ready, start collecting the necessary parts and tools for your robot’s assembly. Follow the assembly instructions, connecting components to the robot’s frame and mounting the sensors. Ensure all connections are secure and that components, such as motors and wheels, are properly attached to the robot’s chassis.

Once the hardware is assembled, connect the components to the microcontroller or computer, making sure the power supply is correctly connected.

Programming Your Robot

Next, you’ll need to write code for your robot to control its movements, sensors, and decision-making processes. This involves programming the robot to react to its environment, execute a set of instructions, and make decisions based on the data it receives from its sensors.

Test and debug the code to ensure the robot responds to commands and executes the programmed instructions. We’re using the ROS 2 on the Raspberry Pi and you can find the GIT repo for the Slamtech sensor here.

Testing and Troubleshooting Your Autonomous Robot

To guarantee the proper functioning of your autonomous robot and identify potential issues, testing and troubleshooting are necessary steps. This process involves:

  • Checking individual components

  • Verifying sensor accuracy

  • Assessing overall system performance

  • Identifying and resolving any problems that may arise during operation

Start with known distances and a highly controlled starting situation so you can verify it’s working properly then start to introduce new variables.

Conducting Initial Tests

Start by conducting initial tests to check the proper functioning of hardware and software components. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Verify the power supply and connections.

  2. Inspect the sensors and actuators.

  3. Assess the communication between the components.

  4. Evaluate the software and firmware.

  5. Test the robot’s movements.

Running your robot in a simulated environment and observing its behavior can provide valuable insights into its performance and potential issues.

Identifying and Resolving Issues

Should your robot not function as expected, pinpointing the source of the issue and implementing corrective measures is crucial. This may involve adjusting the code, replacing faulty components, or fine-tuning the robot’s design.

Regularly monitor the robot’s performance and environment to ensure it operates safely and efficiently.

Real-World Applications of Autonomous Robots with LiDAR


Autonomous robots with LiDAR technology have a wide range of real-world applications, including:

  • Search and rescue missions

  • Agriculture

  • Transportation

  • Environmental monitoring

These robots are making a significant impact on various industries.

In search and rescue operations, for example, autonomous robots can navigate challenging environments and locate missing persons or disaster survivors more efficiently than human rescuers. In agriculture, robots can monitor crop health, optimize irrigation, and even assist in harvesting. Autonomous vehicles, such as self-driving cars, rely on LiDAR sensors to detect obstacles and navigate complex road networks. These are just a few examples of how autonomous robots with LiDAR technology are revolutionizing the way we live and work.

Safety Considerations for Autonomous Robots

A diagram of an autonomous robot with a lidar sensor navigating a manmade environment

Safety assurance is a critical aspect in the design and operation of autonomous robots. This involves taking into account:

  • Legal considerations to guarantee that the robot is compliant with all relevant laws and regulations

  • Ethical considerations to ensure that the robot respects the rights and safety of humans

  • Operational considerations to ensure that the robot operates safely and efficiently

By considering these factors, you can ensure the safety and compliance of your autonomous robot.

Legal and Ethical Aspects

Compliance with safety standards and data protection regulations is a key consideration when constructing an autonomous robot. Ethical considerations, such as respecting the privacy of individuals and ensuring responsible use of technology, should also be taken into account.

By addressing these legal and ethical aspects, you can guarantee that your autonomous robot operates safely and respects the rights of humans.

Ensuring Safe Operation

For the safe operation of your autonomous robot, conduct regular maintenance checks. This includes inspecting connections, looking for signs of damage, and verifying that all components are functioning properly. Monitoring the robot’s performance and environment is also vital to guarantee its safe and efficient operation.

Implement safety features, such as sensors to detect obstacles, emergency stop buttons, and safety protocols, to prevent accidents and ensure the robot functions safely.


In conclusion, building your first autonomous robot with LiDAR technology can be an exciting and rewarding experience. By understanding the basics of autonomous robots and LiDAR technology, following a step-by-step guide to design, assemble, and program your robot, and ensuring its safe operation, you can create a truly autonomous machine capable of navigating and performing tasks in various real-world applications. Now it’s time to bring your vision to life and explore the limitless possibilities that autonomous robots with LiDAR technology have to offer.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to build your first robot?

Start your robot building journey by planning its purpose and design, selecting the microcontroller, gathering components, assembling and connecting the parts, connecting to a computer with the necessary software, and testing your prototype.

What was the first autonomous robot?

The first autonomous robot was Shakey, invented at Stanford in 1966. Before that, Elmer and Elsie, created by W. Grey Walter, were the first robots with programmed “thinking” similar to biological brains.

Can I build my own robot?

Building your own robot is a challenging but achievable project for anyone with the motivation to learn the necessary skills. With enough commitment and perseverance, you can build a functional robot.

How LiDAR can be used?

LiDAR is a valuable tool for surveying the environment due to its unparalleled depth and dimension, which can enable visibility through dense environments, such as forest canopy. LiDAR technology facilitates a wide range of activities, including the modeling of inundation and storm surges, hydrodynamic studies, shoreline mapping, emergency response coordination, hydrographic surveys, and analyses of coastal vulnerability. It also aids in monitoring atmospheric gases and particles. Owing to these capabilities, LiDAR is a versatile tool with a broad spectrum of applications such as archaeology, climate monitoring, urban planning, meteorology, mining, and many more. These features make LiDAR highly versatile, with applications in archaeology, climate monitoring, city planning, meteorology, mining, and more.

What types of autonomous robots can I build using LiDAR technology?

You can use LiDAR technology to build ground, aerial, and aquatic autonomous robots, depending on your needs.


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