Time-of-flight measurement techniques for airborne ultrasonic ranging

Joseph Jackson, Rahul Summan, Gordon Dobie, Simon Whiteley, Stephen Pierce, Gordon Hayward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Citations (Scopus)


Airborne ultrasonic ranging is used in a variety of different engineering applications for which other positional metrology techniques cannot be used, for example in closed-cell locations, when optical line of sight is limited, and when multipath effects preclude electromagnetic-based wireless systems. Although subject to fundamental physical limitations, e.g., because of the temperature dependence of acoustic velocity in air, these acoustic techniques often provide a cost-effective solution for applications in mobile robotics, structural inspection, and biomedical imaging. In this article, the different techniques and limitations of a range of airborne ultrasonic ranging approaches are reviewed, with an emphasis on the accuracy and repeatability of the measurements. Simple time-domain approaches are compared with their frequency-domain equivalents, and the use of hybrid models and biologically inspired approaches are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)343 - 355
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics and Frequency Control
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013


  • aircraft instrumentation
  • distance measurement
  • biomedical imaging
  • mobile robotics
  • radiowave propagation


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