On-Site Weather Station
Always know when it’s a great day to fly
The Long Island Skyhawks RC club recently erected a weather station at their flying field. Because several of the members have to travel a long distance to the field, the idea of a local weather station had been discussed for a couple of years. The primary purpose for the station was to allow members to see the wind conditions before making the long ride to the field, only to be grounded by strong winds. Club member Lou Cetrangelo of St. James, New York, investigated the possibilities and looked into the costs and benefits associated with such a device.
One of the club’s main concerns was vandalism since the club field is not secured or manned all the time, and the club was worried about losing its investment. To lower the risk, club members agreed to install a secure structure. The field did not have access to electric power, so the station had to be completely self-contained; fortunately, the field has good access to cell-phone frequencies. With the list of features and functions in hand, Lou started his search for a suitable station.
Ultimately, Lou found that a Davis Instruments Weather Underground station could provide historical and forecasting data that could be easily accessed. The station provides members accurate current weather information that they can receive via cell phones, tablets, or computers. Using a sensor suite, the system measures wind direction and velocity, temperature, humidity, dew point, solar radiation, precipitation rates, and total rainfall. A battery- and solar-panel-equipped Vantage Connect unit has a cellular module that can communicate wirelessly with the sensor suite, which also has its own solar panel and battery. To avoid extra radio signals at the field, however, the club decided to use a version with a cable that connects the two systems. The ideal location for the sensor suite’s anemometer and wind vane is between 20 and 30 feet above the ground and away from trees, buildings, and other obstructions. Another club member, Bob Sikora, took on the task of fabricating a hinged aluminum pole that could be lowered for maintenance. This required a sturdy concrete footing that was at least 40 inches deep. All of this site preparation took considerable effort to construct, and several other members helped out. Once everything was installed, the station was up and running; the data sent from the Vantage Connect is posted to the Davis website. The club chose to go with the 15-minute data update plan, and their total investment was $1,160; after the first year, the club pays a $180 annual fee. The club also registered with the Weather Underground so that its members and other users can see a forecast as well as a history of the weather information. Several apps also connect to the club’s weather information. To see the real-time weather conditions at the Skyhawks’ flying field, you can also use the Davis WeatherLink at weatherlink.com/user/liskyhawks. If your club wants to do something similar, check out Davis Instruments at davisnet.com/weathermonitoring.
The gang pulls together to hoist the new weather station into position at the flying field. The finished installation is high on a secure, heavyduty pole, which is attached to a concrete footing.
Apps for the iPhone and other devices allow real-time weather updates from the flying field.