Radar, sonar, and lidar

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Radar, sonar, and lidar are acronyms that have become words. An acronym is an abbreviation that is formed by taking the initial letters of the words in a phrase and creating a new word that is pronounceable. Sometimes, acronyms are used so often they become words. We will look at the definitions of the words radar, sonar, and lidar, where they came from, and some examples of their use in sentences.

Radar is the oldest of these three acronyms-turned-words. Radar was coined in 1941 from the phrase radio detection and ranging. Radar is a system that uses radio waves to determine an object’s size, distance, and speed. Invented during World War II to detect enemy aircraft, radar is used today for civilian air navigation, to detect speeders on the road, and to track weather systems. Radar is a specific technology, but it is also used as an idiomatic expression to mean someone’s ability to perceive.

Sonar is another acronym that became a word; it was coined in 1946 from the phrase sound navigation ranging. Sonar is a system that uses sound to navigate or detect objects underwater. Originally used by the military, sonar is now used to map the sea floor, explore shipwrecks, and monitor marine life.

Lidar is an acronym that has only recently become a word. It is still often seen spelled as LIDAR or LiDAR; however, the Oxford English Dictionary has listed lidar as the official spelling. The word lidar was coined in 1963 from the phrase light detection and ranging; lidar uses lasers to draw maps that show contours and other features not readily observable by the naked eye. Lidar is used in geology, cartography, archaeology, hazard detection, meteorology, mining, climate monitoring, and more.


Just over a month ago, Tesla caused a stir by announcing that it was dropping the use of radar for its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features in the Model 3 and Y. (Forbes)

To answer this question, we look at data from the Brazilian Amazon, the only county to date which has used radar-based EWS for deforestation monitoring. (Brookings Institution)

High-resolution photographs of China’s latest submarine recently posted on social media forums appear to confirm that the boat is fitted with a reelable passive towed array sonar, which is a significant enhancement over the previous Type 039B (Yuan) class. (Janes)

The ADFG sonar went into the lake on the south shore of Miles Lake, which based on historical counts means half the sockeye passing through have been counted. (Anchorage Daily News)

And Dutch geo-intelligence company Fugro has signed a contract to install a lidar buoy in July at a wind farm off the coast of Vietnam for wind resource mapping. (Argus Media)

Ouster, Inc. (NYSE: OUST), a leading provider of high-resolution digital lidar sensors for the industrial automation, smart infrastructure, robotics, and automotive industries, today announced that it has achieved Buy America and Buy American certifications for sensors manufactured in its San Francisco facility. (Joplin Globe)