Skip to main content

Low-cost terrain sensor


An investigation into the feasibility of a low-cost terrain sensing system.

Terrain sensing vehicle



A terrain sensor is designed to interpret natural and man-made features of an area. The information from the sensor can then be stored, and used to classify different terrain types. Such a sensor can be used to assist autonomous vehicles and the visually im-paired with the navigation of their surroundings. A low cost terrain sensor would also be of benefit in military applications, where damage is likely.


  • Research and investigate the different methods used to detect terrain types
  • Investigate the ultrasonic, infrared and visible ranges of the electromagnetic spectrum
  • Identify where the most useful information is
  • Investigate a combination of techniques that can be used to develop a low cost terrain sensor
  • Determine the feasibility of a low cost terrain sensor array by doing the following:
      • Use and learn National Instruments LABVIEW Software
      • Interface Suitable Sensors to LABVIEW
      • Conduct several experiments on different terrain samples
      • Analyse and document the results


Terrain sensing graph

The graph above shows the light reflected back from the tested terrain samples in the visible and infrared light spectrums. This investigation was carried out by using a spectrometer to measure the percentage light reflected from an object, from a broad spectrum light source. From the results illustrated by these graphs it is possible to conclude that the leaf reflects most light, whilst rock, and soil reflect the least. It is also see that each terrain sample, produces a distinct reflection curve. This curve also changes depending on how wet the sample is. The wetter the sample, the more light is scattered and reflected back to the light source.