September 12, 2021
As I have been unable to access the field for some time due to the boggy conditions and not having a 4WD wheelchair, this month I have dedicated HT to the new weather station that has just been installed today. It was some years ago that this was first raised in March 2016 and due to changes in hardware and committee over time, the project never got off the ground.
The weather station comes with its own software with the ability to upload data to the internet and sites like Wunderground or to our own website, using software such as WeeWX or CumulusMX to capture the data from the weather station. Our tests showed that the CPU usage, and therefore power draw was significantly higher with WeeWx and Cumulus. Given we are running off the batteries in the machinery shed this was an important factor.
Fastforward to 2020 and the arrival of my son Stuart who, with his family has relocated his work from Silicon Valley in the US, to now call Tasmania his home again. Stuart is a senior software engineer with Influxdata. Influx were keen to set up a presence in the Asia/Pacific region, so Stuart’s decision to return “home” fitted with their corporate plan. He now provides a contact point for Influx in our time zone. A win/win for both. With Stuart’s expertise at hand, I asked him to assist with the development of our own software for the weather station.
Stuart decided that the language Go was the best option to do this so he set about writing the program that would create a “realtime.txt” file, which is one of the standard data file formats used by various weather stations and be efficient in terms of data capture and power usage. In order to access the sensors on the weather station hardware he had to know the wireless protocol information that Fine Offset uses to communicate the data to the display unit. He contacted FO in China and they provided him with that information. For those that are interested, the source code is available here on Github
I had researched a number of options for displaying the weather data on the website and decided that a WordPress plugin Weather Station by Pierre Lannoy, provided a nice interface and extensive reporting capabilities. Of course most of this is overkill for our needs. No doubt members are looking for basic information on such things as wind speed and direction but to be comfortable, we also want to know if it’s bitterly cold, too hot or pouring with rain!
Note: The website weather pages are still under development and will change over time but at least for the moment they display all the necessary information.
We chose a Raspberry Pi Zero W as the hardware because it was compact, had a built in 8mp camera, had low power requirements and much cheaper than a laptop and security camera alternative. The cost comparisons are below –2021-Weather-Station-Costings
Unfortunately, Telstra have changed their data plans and the small (5gb/365 day) plans are no longer available. The best we could do was a 40GB plan with a 365 day expiry. In 2 months, including testing and downloading data, which is more than we would normally be using, we have used 0.6GB, giving us an estimate of <4GB for the year! We could have gone for data providers with lower data plans but we wanted to stick with the more reliable Telstra network.
As mentioned previously, Stuart has written a new program using the Go language. This program will capture the data, and upload the “realtime.txt file to the website via FTP. Then the WordPress plugin “Weather Station” will extract the data and I have written various pages in our website for members to access the information. The menu looks like this –
Note: Some pages are best displayed in “landscape” mode on mobile devices.
- Current Conditions – As it says, the current conditions at the field in a textual format.
- Airfield Camera – Every 1 hour between the hours of 8am and 4pm, the camera will upload an image from the machinery shed, looking towards the strip.
- Weather Gauges – These show a visual indication of the current conditions at the field.
- Historical Charts – A graphical display of the key indicators for the month to date and the previous month.
- Station Information – A general description of the hardware and software employed to create the weather information pages and data capture.
- Records – We don’t have enough data for this to be meaningful yet.
- Weather Forecast – Willy Weather forecast and current information for the Launceston Airport.
- BOM – The Bureau of Meteorology reports and projections for Powranna.
With the install we have created, for those that have a smartphone, iOS or Android, there are a number of apps that you can download to your phone to give you an instant read out of key data from the weather station. What you will need is the following information. –
- The weather station type – It is a Fine Offset WH2900 (in WSView set-up, select Other)
- The weather station ID – IPERTH1834
The one I have been using is WSView – This app can be downloaded for
Here is an example of the WSView display of Symmons Plains on an iPhone –
Once downloaded you can go to the menu (3 blue horizontal bars) and “Configure New Device” and follow the prompts. If you have problems, give me a calling I’ll be happy to help.
The new Station…
Whilst it took a while too get there, I am sure this will be of great benefit to members, especially those who travel a distance to get to the field, only to find it’s blowing a gale! Thank you to Stuart for his help in writing the program and installing the hardware at the field, Pierre Lannoy for his Weather Station plugin and to my son-in-law Chris Lee (PurpleCRM) for his help in providing the server and backend assistance with WordPress (Highly recommended for any business looking for marketing and website expertise).
From the World Wide Web….
Something a bit different this month. I know in my youth we dreamt of a flying car and only saw it in cartoons like The Jetsons and the like. As you will see, it has now become a reality, flying between inter-city airports for the first time. Anyone interested in their next scale project?
Well that’s it for this month. Don’t Forget – Put a Spark in your life and fly electric!