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.

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