LiDAR-based detection and tracking of small UAVs


The number of reported incidents caused by small UAVs increased significantly during the last years, including accidents as well as malicious intents. These incidents comprise hostile activities like attacks on vehicles or persons as well as simple operating errors by UAV pilots during recreational use. To avoid or counter such incidents in future, it is essential to detect small UAVs as early as possible, in order to be able to react promptly and appropriately.


Solution concepts

LiDAR sensors have shown high potential for the detection, localization and tracking of objects in the near- and mid-range. As soon as consumer-grade LiDAR sensors hit the market, vehicles will be equipped with such sensors for autonomous driving functionalities or driver assistance. In view of increasing usage of LiDAR sensors on future vehicles, it could prove worthwhile to consider them for the protection against UAVs. At Fraunhofer IOSB, algorithms for the detection and tracking of small UAVs have been developed to work with 360° scanning LiDAR sensors. In first tests, we used respective LiDAR data acquired by MODISSA, which is our platform for mobile sensor data acquisition and mobile mapping. MODISSA is equipped with four 360° scanning LiDAR sensors in total. The maximum range of the sensors is limited to 120 m, but that should be enough for the protection of the individual vehicle. In these tests we were able to detect UAVs in ranges up to 50 m, using scanning LiDAR sensors and a moving sensor platform. The distinction between UAVs and other flying objects like birds should be possible by analyzing the trajectory of their movement. This is subject of current and future research activities.


Video: Detection and tracking of a UAV using 360° scanning LiDAR sensors on a moving sensor platform.



  • Hammer, M., Borgmann, B., Hebel, M., Arens, M., 2020. A multi-sensorial approach for the protection of operational vehicles by detection and classification of small flying objects. Electro-Optical Remote Sensing XIV, Proceedings of the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE) Vol. 11538, 115387. [doi: 10.1117/12.2573620]
  • Hammer, M., Hebel, M., Borgmann, B., Laurenzis, M., Arens, M., 2018. Potential of LiDAR sensors for the detection of UAVs. Laser Radar Technology and Applications XXIII, Proceedings of the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE) Vol. 10636, 1063605. [doi: 10.1117/12.2303949]