Tag Archive: Sensor

Nature inspired ultrasonic distance measurement

An animal that uses ultrasound is the bat, they use it to hunt at night. A lot of animals hunt in the dark, like cats and have special eyes to see in the dark. But because insects are too small to hunt even with that kind of eyes, the bat uses Ultrasound to locate insects to hunt on.

animal ecolocation
So he uses his ears to see (= echolocation). Not only bats use this method, also dolphins and whales. It’s even possible to do it as a human, Daniel Kish is blind from the age of 13 and has adapted to this, by learning himself echolocation.


Not only nature uses echolocation, also submarines and cars use it, like you see on the first picture. Submarines can use sonar to check the depth of the sea or to see other objects in the neighborhood. Because we use ultrasound in our thesis I find it more appropriate to talk about the echolocation in cars.

example of park assist

Now a days every car has park assistance on it,  like you see on this picture there is already a lot of evolution in this sector.

evolution in ultrasound sensors

For the ones that don’t know how it works, the sensor transmits a burst and then he times how long it takes to receive the echo/reflection of the burst. Then he uses this time difference in combination with the velocity of sound to calculate the distance.

Because the sensors are used outdoor, they need to be waterproof. For this reason they opt for enclosed sensors, that can both transmit and receive. These types are normally less sensitive, but more robust.

An important factor, they need to choose in the application is at what frequency to transmit. Transmitting at a high frequency, makes your signal more directive, what is better to prevent interaction with the ground. For the same reason asymmetric types are used, sensors that have a bigger horizontal range than they have vertical.

directivity of higher frequencies




I hope you see that nature inspired this invention, you could see it as an example of biomimicry.

See you next time.


Automotive sensors

One of the most known applications using ultrasound sensors is the park assist. Or if we take it one step further the automatic parking system. Park assist systems mostly use ultrasound sensors or cameras to scan the road in 2 dimensions to gather accurate distance information. This system simplifies life especially for people who have problems with parking cars. However with these system the drivers abilities to park himself will drop considerably.  The automotive sector is increasingly relying on sensors to improve safety and comfort. At low speed ultrasound sensors and cameras are used. At high speed most systems rely on RADAR-systems. For more information about the different systems you can read this paper.


Also these systems are used to provide information on the display about the surroundings making it possible to detect objects in otherwise invisible regions. This gives the possibility to designers to change the normal view of a car. For example improving the aerodynamics by replacing the mirrors with cameras.


Sensor based cars will eventually lead to self-driving cars available for consumers. In today’s world smartphone and tablet makers turn out new models every year because the consumers became tech-hungry. Will the same phenomenon apply to cars as well in the future? What do you think? I think consumers will expect the latest technology and newest systems in their cars. This means a new automotive landscape and probably new business models in the automotive world.