The ADAR difference

Ultrasonic 3D imaging is a well-known technology in medical applications, but it has never been used like this in air before.

Please welcome acoustic detection and ranging (ADAR).

With ADAR-enabled robotics we simultaneously achieve a number of great benefits compared to other 3D imaging technologies: safe autonomous navigation, miniaturization, cost-effectiveness, and very low power consumption

Read on to learn more.

The magic of ultrasonic

The magic of

Now we’re pushing the ultrasonic boundaries

It all starts with a burst of sound...

... made possible by PMUTs

Directed by beamforming

One sensor, many benefits

Ultrasound is sound at frequencies that are inaudible to human ears. Well-known applications are underwater (SONAR) and non-invasive medical imaging. Ultrasound is also in use today for reliable 1D distance measurement when we park our cars.

Sonair is developing a 3D distance sensor which provides autonomous robots with omnidirectional depth sensing. We call this new technology ADAR (acoustic detection and ranging)

It operates by emitting a burst of ultrasound and then analyzing the signals received by an array of receivers. This gives a 3D view of the area in front of the robot, up to a range of 5 meters.

The innovation is made possible by the integration of piezoelectric actuation in MEMS (micro electro mechanical system). The MEMS transducers are a proprietary Sonair design and manufactured by the SINTEF MiNaLab.

The transducers, made of silicon, are ready for mass production. They have an acoustic impedance which is well matched to air, and above all, they are of millimeter size. As opposed to commercially available transducers, they can be placed in an array with a separation corresponding to half an ultrasonic pulse wavelength. This opens for image reconstruction of the full volume in front of the array by methods known from medical ultrasound.

The imaging method is called beamforming. It's the backbone of processing for SONAR and RADAR, as well as in medical ultrasound imaging.

Sonair’s innovation lies in combining wavelength-matched transducers with cutting-edge software for beamforming and object recognition algorithms. This innovation makes 3D spatial information available simply by transmitting sound and listening.

By using 3D ultrasonic imaging in robotics applications, Sonair delivers safe navigation, miniaturization, cost efficiency, and low power consumption compared to other methods for creating 3D images.

Object detected

Object detected

Object detected

How soundwaves travel through air

Derfor handler det også om produksjonskapasitet. Minalab kan produsere rundt en halv million slike ADAR-er i året, men det er lite når bilmarkedet tar dem i bruk.

Using soundwaves allows us to identify points of clearity in the surrounding areas.

Using soundwaves allows us to identify points of clearity in the surrounding areas. Using soundwaves allows us to identify points of clearity in the surrounding areas.

The waves work like this. and then they do this. It is brand new. The waves work like this. and then they do this. The waves work like this. and then they do this.

That way we can accurately create a image of the surroundings.

Wait, my robot can already navigate and detect obstacles.


Right, but sort of. There are several technologies used for 3D sensing for robots. Most competing technologies use electromagnetic waves for sensing, like cameras and LiDAR. Both have shortcomings. Cameras do not offer a reliable manner of 3D imaging without fusion with other sensors. They also require a very powerful processing capability on the device to give meaningful and reliable results. LiDARs are large and bulky, have limited FoV, and high cost.

Your car already measures distance to objects behind it with a single and simple transducer. We put transducers together for powerful 3D imaging.

Ultrasound waves are generated by transducers using piezoelectric crystals to convert electrical energy to sound. Single transducers can give accurate distance measurements by using the Time-of-Flight principle. Transducers used in combination can give 3D information by using beamforming. Sophisticated techniques have been developed over decades to interpret and visualize such data. Most of us are already familiar with the single transducer distance measurements from car parking sensors. Imagine what we can do with 3D localization with sound in air.

Where can ADAR technology be applied?

Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR)

Robots that move freely around people and other machines

Service robots

Robots that perform tasks in a restaurant, domestically or in industrial environments

Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV)

Robots that follow marked lines or wires on the floor.

Last mile delivery

A delivery robot is an autonomous robot that provides "last mile" delivery services, for example to people's homes.

Consumer robots

These robots are designed for personal or domestic use. They are usually small, portable, and relatively simple to operate.

Small but powerful


<100 g


0-5 m

Range resolution

1 cm

Angular resolution

2° (center) - 10° (edge)


3D location of objects (ethernet UDP)

Stop zone surveillance (digital I/O)

Ultrasonic frequency

70-85 kHz

Power consumption

Max 5 W

Supply voltage

12-24 V

Frame rate

10 Hz