Challenges of operating remote weather stations

What is the first thing that comes into your mind when you hear the term “remote”? The term remote is usually associated with things far away, on farms, in mountains and isolated stations. Anything that is located “remotely” requires super-powers to help it survive this isolation. Given that human help is typically far away and irregular, reliability, control, maintenance and configuration have to be done in special ways, and with special tools.

In this blog, we are essentially going to focus on remote weather stations as they play quite a significant role in our everyday life. Most industries need climate and weather information to support business processes, including labour planning, product design, predicting needs in the near term. These weather stations have become very critical in renewable energy industries, where solar, wind, hydro and bio energy production needs to be anticipated. Advanced agriculture and associated research now needs more detail information at the micro level to optimize growth and yield. Finally, public infrastructure uses such information to maintain roads and other public areas safe during changing conditions.

So what does it take to keep a remote weather station up and running? Do we really understand the challenges of such a task? As Steve Job said, “If you define the problem correctly, you almost have the solution”. So, let’s consider the different challenges involved in the operation of remote weather stations to have a better picture of the problem to be solved.

Firstly, sufficient power has to be provided to the weather station and collection computer, to make sure it can collect data 24×7. This is incredibly difficult given that there is normally no available electrical supply. The system should be able to provide communications (mostly using 3/4G), even in the case where the cell tower is far away. Usage of a high gain antenna is critical in this scenario to ensure the comms device doesn’t use too much power. Also, the ability of the system to be able to record data locally ensures that no data is lost, even through periods of communication interruption, which will almost certainly happen as telecommunication providers cannot guarantee perfect and consistent coverage at all times. A way to transfer files (bi-directionally) to and from the device is needed to make sure the software updates and fixes are transferred to the device, otherwise security cannot be managed. Moreover, the power to the device and weather station has to be controlled to ensure that data collection is not interrupted during days of low solar power generation. Lastly, having intelligent power management of the weather station, solar generation unit, battery system and 3G communications system will be needed to minimize power usage.

Ardexa has been involved in the installation and management of remote industrial system. We are happy to share our experiences in this unique field. Please contact us to discuss any specific challenges you may have.