June 22, 2024

Founded in 2012, LightWare gives eyes to machines, designing and manufacturing the world’s smallest and lightest precision LiDAR systems for use in drones, robots, autonomous vehicles, smart cities, and other applications.

The company delivers leading-edge LiDAR technology to global clients including the largest internet, logistics, and drone companies in the world. LiDAR is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure the distance to objects. 

The founding member James Portman saw for the first time how sensors based on optical time-of-flight principles could detect and measure objects and surfaces in great detail, even from far away. 

This powerful extra-sensory capability has evolved to the point where small, autonomous machines can avoid obstacles and understand their surroundings.

The same sense allows LiDAR networks to monitor and analyze stockpiles of bulk, solid materials. These are just a few of the many possible applications.

You may be wondering if it’s possible to design and manufacture high-quality LiDARs at a price that allows for wide adoption. The answer is a resounding yes and this is what LightWare does every day.

They recognize that each application has specific requirements so they tailor the design of their products to meet these requirements. The result is economical sensors that perfectly fit your needs.

The management team at LightWare is also focused on building a world-class organization, from high-quality manufacturing systems that produce thousands of LiDARs each month to an experienced product development team. 

Additionally, their support desk guides customers as they discover powerful LiDAR solutions for their unique use cases.

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At LightWare they are dedicated to the mission of applying exceptional technology to solving important problems: making drone deliveries safer, monitoring ore movement in mines, counting animals in Kenya, and delivering vaccines in Malawi. The list is almost endless. 

How it Works

Light Detection & Ranging (LiDAR)

Using LiDAR technology, LightWare provides its service to some of the largest internet, logistics, and drone companies across the world. LiDAR is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure the distance to an object.

It’s all about the Time of Flight (ToF) principle: LiDAR emits pulses of light into the environment. These bounce off objects and then return to the source. Timing this action lets you know how far the pulse has traveled.

With multiple nano-second pulses sent and received during a single second, it becomes possible to read distance with outstanding accuracy.

The microLiDAR sensors achieve the perfect balance between accuracy and reliability and safety, which is typically compromised by shorter wavelengths. 

LiDAR is more effective than ultrasonics (especially for long-range sensing applications), detects distance and range more accurately than cameras, and produces clearer high res images than RADAR.

UAV & Altitude

Altitude is the height of an object or point above sea level or ground level.

Many factors impact accurate altitude measurement, and sensors vary in their performance in different environments and across applications which is why it’s often necessary to augment drones’ onboard altitude measurement. 

LightWare’s microLiDARs are exceptional because of their efficiency in addressing altitude issues.

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Drones fitted with LiDAR sensors can measure the exact height above ground level by calculating the time taken for emitted laser pulses to travel from the LiDAR sensor to the ground and back. This makes for high accuracy and is ideal for measuring low- and mid-level altitude.

Ultrasonic sensors generate sound waves and measure the time it takes for the wave to reflect from the earth, just like a bat.

Altitude can be determined by comparing the atmospheric pressure at the current height with the pressure at sea level: the higher the altitude, the lower the pressure. Measurements may be affected by weather conditions’ impact on atmospheric pressure.

Radio waves are emitted from the radar, and the height and distance are measured according to the time it takes for these waves to hit the surface of the object and return to the radar.

GPS sensors establish altitude by triangulating satellite signals. Drawbacks include a lack of accuracy; an inability to operate indoors, underground, or in areas affected by high electromagnetic interference, such as near cell phone towers. They are, furthermore, influenced by weather systems.


James Portman

James Portman

James Portman is the Founding member and Group CEO of LightWare LiDAR.

He previously worked at ABB as a Technical Manager. 

James Portman attended the University of Cape Town.

Nadia Nilsen

Nadia Nilsen

Nadia Nilsen is the Co-Founder, President, and COO of LightWare LiDAR. 

She previously worked at ABB as a Local Business Unit Manager.

Nadia Nilsen attended the University of South Africa.

Investors & Funding Rounds

Sanari Capital

Sanari Capital

LiDAR has secured an investment of $ 1.5 million (R25 million) from Sanari Capital growth.

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The investment funding provided will allow LightWare to rapidly create a series of innovative products using technology. Backed by 27four, Sanari Capital’s Lower and Mid Market Fund has made its first investment and chosen LightWare as the innovative company to back.

Using the provided funding, LightWare will further its advances in utilizing and providing a service of LiDAR technology. Tailwinds for LiDAR were already emerging when the transaction was initially contemplated, driven by the staged regulatory opening of autonomous drone delivery in the US and widespread use of drones for the delivery of life-saving medical supplies to remote areas in Africa.

Main Competitors

Nest Labs: This is a home automation company manufacturing sensor-driven, Wi-Fi-enabled, self-learning thermostats and smoke detectors.

Glowforge: It is a manufacturer of 3D laser printers intended to offer printing services on a wide range of materials and many more.

Ouster: It builds high-resolution lidar sensors for autonomous vehicles, robotics, and many other applications.


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