Open Source Ultrasonic Anemometer

Weather stations are a popular project for experimenting with various environmental sensors, and for wind speed and direction the choice is usually a simple cup anemometer and wind vane. For [Jianjia Ma]’s QingStation, he decided to build another type of wind sensor: An ultrasonic anemometer.

Ultrasonic anemometers have no moving parts but come at the cost of significantly more electronic complexity. They work by measuring the time it takes for an ultrasonic audio pulse to be reflected the receiver across a known distance. Wind direction can be calculated by taking velocity readings from two ultrasonic sensor pairs perpendicular to each other and using a bit of simple trigonometry. For an ultrasonic anemometer to work properly, it requires a carefully designed analog amplifier on the receive side and a lot of signal processing to extract the correct signal from all the noise caused by secondary echoes, multi-pathing, and the environment. The design and experimentation process is well-documented. Since [Jianjia] does not have access to a wind tunnel for testing and calibration, he improvised by mounting the anemometer on his car’s roof and going for a drive. This yielded readings that were proportional to the car’s GPS speed, but a bit higher. This might due to a calculation error, or external factors like wind, or disturbed airflow from the test car or other traffic.

Other sensors include an optical rain sensor, light sensor, lighting sensor, and a BME280 for air pressure, humidity, and temperature. [Jianjia] plans to use the QingStation on an autonomous boat, so he also included an IMU, compass, GPS, and a microphone for environmental sounds. The fact that none of the sensors have moving parts is a major advantage for this use case, and we look forward to seeing the boat project. All the hardware and software are open-source and available on GitHub.

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The Solid State Weather Station

Building personal weather stations has become easier now than ever before, thanks to all the improvements in sensors, electronics, and prototyping techniques. The availability of cheap networking modules allows us to make sure these IoT devices can transmit their information to public databases, thereby providing local communities with relevant weather data about their immediate surroundings.

[Manolis Nikiforakis] is attempting to build the Weather Pyramid — a completely solid-state, maintenance free, energy and communications autonomous weather sensing device, designed for mass scale deployment. Typically, a weather station has sensors for measuring temperature, pressure, humidity, wind speed and rainfall. While most of these parameters can be measured using solid-state sensors, getting wind speed, wind direction and rainfall numbers usually require some form of electro-mechanical devices.

The construction of such sensors is tricky and non-trivial. When planning to deploy in large numbers, you also need to ensure they are low-cost, easy to install and don’t require frequent maintenance. Eliminating all of these problems could result in more reliable, low-cost weather stations to be built, which can then be installed in large numbers at remote locations.

[Manolis] has some ideas on how he can solve these problems. For wind speed and direction, he plans to obtain readings from the accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass in an inertial sensor (IMU), possibly the MPU-9150. The plan is to track the motion of the IMU sensor as it swings freely from a tether like a pendulum. He has done some paper-napkin calculations and he seems confident that it will provide the desired results when he tests his prototype. Rainfall measurement will be done via capacitive sensing, using either a dedicated sensor such as the MPR121 or the built-in touch capability in the ESP32. The design and arrangement of the electrode tracks will be important to measure the rainfall correctly by sensing the drops. The size, shape and weight distribution of the enclosure where the sensors will be installed is going to be critical too since it will impact the range, resolution, and accuracy of the instrument. [Manolis] is working on several design ideas that he intends to try out before deciding if the whole weather station will be inside the swinging enclosure, or just the sensors.

If you have any feedback to offer before he proceeds further, let him know via the comments below.

Ultrasonic Anemometer For An Absurdly Accurate Weather Station

With his meteorological interests, [Carl] builds weather stations. Temperature and humidity sensors are a dime a dozen, but with his DIY ingenuity, [Carl] has built some very interesting and complicated devices. The latest of which is an ultrasonic wind sensor that uses the time of flight of ultrasonic pulses to detect how fast the wind is blowing.

[Carl]’s sensor uses four ultrasonic transducers aligned to North, South, East, and West to detect the wind speed. By measuring the time it takes an ultrasonic pulse to travel between the sensors indoors, Subtracting the in-situ measurement gives him the time of flight for each axis, and thus the wind speed.

It’s an impressive display of engineering that comes with an amazingly detailed design report. After three months of operation, [Carl] has found his ultrasonic anemometer is better than the traditional mechanical ‘egg-cup’ anemometer at measuring low wind speeds. The only real problem with the build is the fact the design makes a great bird perch, but some fine steel wire quickly corrected that problem.