Off grid weather station

Good morning all,

Thought since my Nano 33 IoT is out of commission (Potentially my fault) I would take the opportunity to pick some brains much larger than my own.

Here is the scenario:
I am member to a very small grass roots aviation club. The property that we fly out of is remote (Sort of) but has no power, no running water, no internet, etc… The land itself is actually registered as an airport however it is used for a plethora of activities. It would be immensely helpful to all of those who are lucky enough to be part of this incredible place to be able to check the weather conditions at the field prior to the long drive out there (Long dirt road which can be difficult depending on the time of year)

Here is my overall weather station need:

  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Wind Direction
  • Wind Speed
  • Rainfall

I would be over the moon if I could somehow figure out a Ceilometer configuration. Considering ALL of this has to be run off of solar, batteries and cellular IoT connection. That may be a bit of a stretch.

What I would love to do is start a conversation with someone who has some experience with a build like this. Or even parts of a build like this.

I figure the IoT link could upload to a server at 15 or 30 minute intervals (Depending on plan price) I would also love to be able to have a remote display on the ground that would be in a more “real time” fashion. This of course would be on a separate power supply.

To add to the lure of this. I am thinking it would be best served if the whole “brains” of the center was inside of a clear case with plaques inside describing what was happening. This way the younger ones that show up can see the operation in person and understand what it is doing.

Any thoughts, direction, help is widely appreciated. Still collecting my thoughts.

Initially, I am thinking the following hardware for the brains:
Arduino nano per sensor.
Possible Raspberry pi to act as the data collection point and network connectivity. (I know it’s thirsty. Hoping I can use either a Zero or a 3)
eInk display for the current readouts. Perhaps two. One at the site, and one at the main hangar.
Largish solar panel with a large deep cycle 12v batter for storage. (Of course with controller for overcharging)

PLEASE pipe in on hardware thoughts, power, etc…

Thank you.
Glenn May
Massachusetts. USA

A single nano will do for all the sensors. By the sound of it you have cell coverage, so you'll need a GSM module too.

I don't see that you really need 15 minute updates on your readings if the drive to the airfield is long, but if you want that granularity you could easily store them and just send an hourly update containing all of them.

Maybe send the data to an IoT service with a free tier. Then you can pull it up on your phone. If desired, you can have a device on site too that can display on the e-ink panel. I'd add that later though.

Given MA and therefore snow, I'm not sure how you would keep the solar panel clear. It must be a solved problem though.

Ceilometer is a new word for me. No idea how hard it would be to make one. Maybe phase two?

Assuming there's GSM/3G access on the remote site, I think the Arduino MKR 1400 would be perfect. It should have enough pins and horsepower to drive all your sensors, and it's got an integrated cellular module.

The key is minimizing the time the MCU/GSM is awake/online.

Also look at LoRaWan. The Things network is free for fair use (whatever that means) and I see that there are gateways in MA.

LoRa documentation talks about a 20Km range, but people here have reported much better performance than that.

Sparkfun sells a weather thing, rain, wind speed and direction - - they have a Shield for a UNO that adds temp and humidity - they also have the code for the shield - but the readings go to your computer at something like once a second so there would be some code changes to be useful

The 15 minute interval sounds fine to me - NOAA reads info at 10 minute intervals and uploads the data once an hour. Yes for having wind gusts also

Most of the Arduino's code swaps easily from one processor to another - maybe some pin changes

wildbill:
A single nano will do for all the sensors. By the sound of it you have cell coverage, so you'll need a GSM module too.

I don't see that you really need 15 minute updates on your readings if the drive to the airfield is long, but if you want that granularity you could easily store them and just send an hourly update containing all of them.

Maybe send the data to an IoT service with a free tier. Then you can pull it up on your phone. If desired, you can have a device on site too that can display on the e-ink panel. I'd add that later though.

Given MA and therefore snow, I'm not sure how you would keep the solar panel clear. It must be a solved problem though.

Ceilometer is a new word for me. No idea how hard it would be to make one. Maybe phase two?

That is where I guess I do not completely understand how to program the Arduino. I will get there at some point. Going to be a fun project. It looks like there are a fair amount of sketches available that will do what I want. I guess I just have to put them all into one load?
And yes, the Ceilometer is a phase two. That is a serious pipe dream in my eyes. Although it would be fantastic. I don't know how much power it would draw, nor do I have the budget to buy one. They are not cheap. :slight_smile:
Assuming you looked it up. But for everyone's benefit. This is the device used at airport weather stations that reports if what the ceiling of the clouds is at. Pilots can only fly in certain conditions if they are flying in VFR (Visual Flight Rules) and can only depart of fly IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) if the airplane, airport AND pilot are rated for such flight. It's not uncommon to depart a clear airport headed for one 20 miles away only to find the destination airport socked in and unlandable. This particular field is an island in the middle of the Assabet River. There are times where the river fog settles on the field but is clear 5 miles away.
It would be nice to know that. If I was REALLY ambitious I would attempt to setup a radio weather station that would broadcast the weather over an airband frequency so that someone could listen in from a distance away. However, that would require far more power than I am willing to sacrifice.
Thank you. I have a couple of Nanos that I picked up. I can try building one to do all of the above. I don't have all of the weather gear yet. But I assume I could simulate this with multiple temp sensors or something like that?

saildude:
Sparkfun sells a weather thing, rain, wind speed and direction - - they have a Shield for a UNO that adds temp and humidity - they also have the code for the shield - but the readings go to your computer at something like once a second so there would be some code changes to be useful

The 15 minute interval sounds fine to me - NOAA reads info at 10 minute intervals and uploads the data once an hour. Yes for having wind gusts also

Most of the Arduino's code swaps easily from one processor to another - maybe some pin changes

Thats perfect. If anyone has any experience with that kit in the cold country, I am all ears. It's cheap enough. If I have to buy a spare to have parts hanging around. Thats fine. Just want to know. :slight_smile:

I wouldn't bother simulating the data. Figure out how you want to send store and display the data. Just do it for one sensor. Adding more later should be simple once you have the architecture figured out.

Just out of curiosity: Have you looked at openweathermap.org to get current weather and forecasts for your particular location? The data they supply should cover some of your needs and you can focus on more exotic details like local visibility and cloud ceiling. Just a thought.

Aggertroll:
Just out of curiosity: Have you looked at openweathermap.org to get current weather and forecasts for your particular location? The data they supply should cover some of your needs and you can focus on more exotic details like local visibility and cloud ceiling. Just a thought.

I have. And frankly use that for the most part. Figured if I could get a decent IoT device out there. I could eventually get even fancier. Like Hourly photos, Ceilometer, etc.
It also stands as a first of possibly many of the same type systems. I am close with many people who either own private airfields or fly in and out of remote locations. If I can control this in a local accessible site It would be proven to work even in remoter locations. :slight_smile: Some of which really don't show local conditions.
Besides. Who wants it easy? :confused:

I have watched a few Trent Palmer vid's so 'remote' is relative.
Getting any sort of signal from a place scores of miles from the nearest power or cell or internet will be something of a challenge.

My thoughts are that a solar powered system would be in order.
And regardless what you want to add to it, expansion is just a matter of adding the bits, batteries solar cells, etc

In some really distant cases, you might consider mountain top / towers, LoRa repeaters, etc

The basic level would work with an ESP32. just get the data, temp, humidity, data logging, rain, web pages, etc.
probably best to send the data to cloud based service.

dumping data every quarter hour may be more than needed. daily updates with the data is where I would think is minimum.

As you get more advanced, you could ping the airport and then for the next 2 hours, it would be in 15 minute update mode.

also, as you get more advanced, any sharp change, drop in pressure, humidity, temperature, sun, etc. could txt your phone.

If all the people that live near the airport don't hate you because of noise concerns, perhaps you could trade the occasional joyride for putting your weather station in a neighbour's back garden in range of their wifi.

Also, it's no longer free to use their API, but Weather Underground has a network of citizen meteorologists sending them data from their own weather stations. There may be one close enough to the airport whose data you can tap into.

I have watched a few Trent Palmer vid's so 'remote' is relative.
Getting any sort of signal from a place scores of miles from the nearest power or cell or internet will be something of a challenge.

Ahhh.. Good 'ol Trent and the flying cowboys. I am no where near as remote as that. We do have cell service and I believe that LoRA will work just fine.
I am about 35 miles west of Boston. it's a grass strip in the middle of a river (8MA4)

My thoughts are that a solar powered system would be in order.
And regardless what you want to add to it, expansion is just a matter of adding the bits, batteries solar cells, etc

In some really distant cases, you might consider mountain top / towers, LoRa repeaters, etc

I believe solar is the only way to go. I Could get fancy and put a backup wind generator on as well. But in all honesty I believe if I put a full size deep cycle battery in the power station it will more than likely run the gear I need for an extensive amount of time without needing to worry about it (Weather, snow, etc..) I also believe that where I am planning on putting it will get way more than enough power.

The basic level would work with an ESP32. just get the data, temp, humidity, data logging, rain, web pages, etc.
probably best to send the data to cloud based service.

This is where I start to realize how little I actually know. Now, I am very familiar with networking, storage, unix, etc.. I am NOT overly familiar with binary or how the Arduino's work. I initially thought I was going to need to have a nano, or equivalent per sensor to make sure it would read properly. (I have since found out that I apparently took a quick trip off the top of overkill cliff) But that is great news. FAR less power than initially anticipated.
I have access to web servers, online storage by the truckload, etc.. So that is the general game plan to upload to one of those and then parse the data. I will need to do a little building on that end as well. But this hardware / Arduino config is looking like the largest hill to climb knowledge wise for me.

dumping data every quarter hour may be more than needed. daily updates with the data is where I would think is minimum.

As you get more advanced, you could ping the airport and then for the next 2 hours, it would be in 15 minute update mode.

Daily would be a little light. I have pilots that drive up for a couple of hours to fly here. This will give them a chance to monitor over a time frame instead of just a quick daily snapshot. 15 minutes might be a little heavy. I agree.
One of the "Thoughts" is also to put a remote display in the main hangar with the information on it. Of course this may be overkill as well since I can just buy an el cheapo digital weather station for the local stuff. But that limits the cool factor. :slight_smile:
I would like to know more about these limits that would cause an alert or a "Emergency update" That could be incredibly helpful. Especially if I flew out of the airport in the AM and was on my way back when the weather deteriorated. A cell alert would be awesome.
Thanks... Appreciate the information. I will do some more research on what I can get up there for a signal. I suppose the best thing I can do is try one of the services and see how the connection goes.

wildbill:
If all the people that live near the airport don't hate you because of noise concerns, perhaps you could trade the occasional joyride for putting your weather station in a neighbour's back garden in range of their wifi.

Also, it's no longer free to use their API, but Weather Underground has a network of citizen meteorologists sending them data from their own weather stations. There may be one close enough to the airport whose data you can tap into.

Most of our neighbors are friends of the field. We have a very benevolent land owner who allows folks to come in and swim in the man made pond, fish, etc... But it's over a mile to the nearest house that I could stick an antenna on. It's a stretch. Doable, but a stretch.
Wunderground is OK. There is a station not terribly far away. The problem we run into is the location of the field being in the middle of a river can have a very different weather pattern than even a short distance away.
Besides.. This is a much cooler way of doing it.

if you look at temperatures over any period, you expect certain things. sunrise comes with a temperature increase.
rain with a temperature decrease.

if you have say, 65 degree day and within some period, say 30 minutes, the temperature drops more than 2 or 3 degress, that would put up a notice.

rain of more than some value...

Since this is somewhat new to you,
You look at temperature every few seconds. that is normal.
You can average the last 15 minutes (or whatever you want, even a rolling average)
say you get 65, 66, 67 over the last hour, then get 60. enough of a change to be noticed. you can send a notification.

Say you get a light rain, then it gets heavy, or the winds kick up, etc
You can pick any change and send an alert. the world is open to you on this point. maybe too many notifications !

If you have the on-line storage abilities, then you can log as often as you like.
the other penalty is the power needed to post to the web. Assuming all VFR, you could have it post hourly as a norm, but allow you to ping the station and then it would update every 5 minutes for some hours.

I would assume that there are enough weather reporting stations, moving maps, in the surrounding areas etc to give you information early enough so you would know that it is not a good day or that it is a perfect day do get a $200 hamburger. (are they still $200 burgers?) then the local weather at the airport for that exact information.

if you look at temperatures over any period, you expect certain things. sunrise comes with a temperature increase.
rain with a temperature decrease.

if you have say, 65 degree day and within some period, say 30 minutes, the temperature drops more than 2 or 3 degress, that would put up a notice.

rain of more than some value...

Since this is somewhat new to you,
You look at temperature every few seconds. that is normal.
You can average the last 15 minutes (or whatever you want, even a rolling average)
say you get 65, 66, 67 over the last hour, then get 60. enough of a change to be noticed. you can send a notification.

Say you get a light rain, then it gets heavy, or the winds kick up, etc
You can pick any change and send an alert. the world is open to you on this point. maybe too many notifications !

If you have the on-line storage abilities, then you can log as often as you like.
the other penalty is the power needed to post to the web. Assuming all VFR, you could have it post hourly as a norm, but allow you to ping the station and then it would update every 5 minutes for some hours.

I would assume that there are enough weather reporting stations, moving maps, in the surrounding areas etc to give you information early enough so you would know that it is not a good day or that it is a perfect day do get a $200 hamburger. (are they still $200 burgers?) then the local weather at the airport for that exact information.

On a similar note. Would it also be possible to snap a photo say every hour during daylight hours (Would have to get a daylight schedule in there) and also send that up? When I was originally doing this with an RPI it was an easy setup. Just curious on the Arduino..

And no, they are not really $200 hamburgers. Usually more like 4 - 500 :slight_smile: Unless you are a particular friend of mine and his are closer to $3000 hamburgers.. lol

Thought I would include a photo for reference

HI,

Just to chime in with a few things that are working for me.

WemosD1 wifi repeater uses about 100mah and works well here in Canada with 4 18650 batteries and a 5v solar cell that provides 1amp in full summer sun. It keeps the system going even in winter.

The range of the repeaters is not going to do the distance you need with only one of them but they can do automesh networking so you just keep adding them into the system until the wifi reaches the zone. If you have line of sight and directional antennas you can get some great range.

The trick is timing the power up times with the weather station. It takes quite a bit of power in winter to keep the wifi repeaters alive 24 hours.

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