SureStar Lidar

Chinese player excels in lightweight sensors

Figure 1: Dr. Jane Zhang, co-founder and CEO of SureStar.

Beijing SureStar Technology Co. Ltd. is headquartered in the northwest corner of Beijing, where you can find many high-tech heavyweights, such as Huawei, Baidu, Tencent, Lenovo and Didi. It is a palace of robust innovation and called China’s Silicon Valley.

Figure 2: Darsi Zhang, co-founder and CTO of SureStar.

SureStar was found by Darsi (Figure 1) and Zhiwu (Jane) Zhang (Figure 2) in 2005, on return from their studies overseas, initially to offer lidar mapping solutions for terrain surveying, power-line inspection and railway clearance monitoring. Darsi Zhang, co-founder and CTO, has over 18 years’ experience in lidar research and development. Before focusing on lidar technology, he worked for K&S, which is a leading provider of semiconductor packaging and electronic assembly solutions. Thanks to his experience in the semiconductor industry, SureStar is one of earliest lidar manufacturers to be involved in integrated-circuit design specifically for lidar signal processing (LSP). The high-performance LSP chips, modular design and unique semiconductor assembly process make SureStar stand out in product performance, low weight, and low power consumption, as well as high production efficiency. For example, the 32-beam R-Fans-32 scanner (Figure 3) weighs only 738 g, yet is able to detect objects with 10% reflectivity at 200 m. The range of the A-Pilot airborne scanner (Figure 4) is as much as 1350 m at 10% reflectivity with a scanner weight of only 3500 g.

Figure 3: R-Fans-32 scanner.

Figure 4: A-Pilot airborne scanner.

SureStar co-founder and CEO, Jane Zhang, earned her Ph.D from the University of Guelph. As early as 2014, perceiving a flourish of autonomous vehicle and UAV applications, she decided to put more effort on to the development of automotive lidar and lightweight UAV-lidar. Since launching the R-Fans multi-beam lidar in 2016, SureStar has marketed the semi-flash lidar C-Fans-32 and C-Fans-128, which can be embedded into vehicles. The weight of the Genius UAV-lidar system (Figure 6), including laser scanner, IMU, GNSS, control unit, data storage and integration box, is only 1168 g, suitable for installation in most lightweight drones.

Figure 6: Genius UAV lidar installed on DJI 210.

SureStar embraces complete and comprehensive lidar core technologies and has reported over 100 intellectual property rights (patents, software copyrights and trademarks). Quick roll-out of new products comes from a talented and fast-growing R&D team. SureStar has its headquarters and R&D center in Beijing (figure 7), production facilities in Suzhou, and software team in Hefei respectively. In 2018, SureStar set up a representative office in Wixom City, near Detroit, to provide timely technical support to North American clients. SureStar currently has more than 200 employees, of which more than 50% are involved in R&D and technical support.

Figure 7: SureStar’s headquarters in Beijing.

Figure 8: Cargo delivery robots of JD.

As one of most important lidar providers for both mapping and automotive applications, Surestar has distributed lidar sensors into USA, Europe, Russia, Australia, South Korea and South East Asia. The Fortune 500 clients of SureStar include several Chinese leaders in power and transportation, and many big names in autonomous driving (Figure 8). SureStar sensors were also seen in Malaysia’s first self-driving car in which Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad took a ride on April 2019 (Figure 9). Just as this article was going to press, SureStar was notified that it had met the requirements of IATF16949:2016. This international standard was published in 2016 by the International Automotive Task Force to supersede ISO/TS 19649. The standard is aimed at the development of a quality management system that provides for continual improvement, emphasizing defect prevention and the reduction of variation and waste in the automotive industry supply chain. SureStar’s commitment to automotive lidar is clear, while it continues to offer products across the lidar spectrum, including the rapidly growing UAV-lidar market.

Figure 9: 5G autonomous car of Malaysia equipped with SureStar lidar.

Claire Zhang is assistant to the CEO at SureStar. She holds a masters degree in economics from the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing. She focuses on overseas marketing in SureStar and has been engaged in promoting SureStar lidar to global users.