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Science Technology

Weather Radar Goes Miniature 167

quackking writes "As reported today in the Boston Globe, the NSF has committed at least $17M to build out a new network of miniature (at least in comparison with today's monsters) weather radars. This is to radar what Beowulf clusters are to the mainframe; the scientists at U Mass Amherst project that eventually a weather radar node will be deployable for under $20K! Now to figure out how to get real-time access to this mesh of sensors and create a really cool screensaver..."
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Weather Radar Goes Miniature

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  • Weather Sensor Array (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Xaroth ( 67516 ) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @02:09PM (#7096003) Homepage
    I've always thought that wide-spread weather research could be enhanced in an even lower-cost fashion. If basic sensor arrays (wind speed / direction, humidity, temperature, pressure, and whatever else you can fit in there) powered by solar panels could be deployed for less than $200 per station, you could litter the nation with them spaced out every couple of miles in a grid. Then, have them all phone home (they could repeat their own traffic to reduce reliance on other networks) to a high-powered computer (or via a distributed network, a la SETI@home) to determine weather patterns.

    Granted, low cost radars like this are a step towards getting high-resolution data for more areas, but something like what I've described could possibly help answer larger climate-related questions.
  • Home Brewed Radar? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by moehoward ( 668736 ) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @02:16PM (#7096060)
    Has anyone home-brewed a radar system of any type? Is it possible? What could you do with it?

  • Missing the Point... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cap'n Canuck ( 622106 ) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @02:23PM (#7096130)
    Beowulf jokes aside, I think the editors and other posters are missing the point here. The NSF is putting up $17M of a total of $40M, the rest to be made up from private industries (like Raytheon) and public institutions. That's like, I don't know, less than half.

    With the private companies coming on, you can bet that there's more than just weather radar applications, though that's not a bad place to start. Still, you've got to wonder why Raytheon would pump $5M into it if there wasn't something in it for them...

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @02:25PM (#7096147) Homepage Journal
    It would be nice to space them like that, but I think two projects are in order. A low-resolution project, dumping them all over the globe, and high-resolution projects for areas of particular interest. In a particular area you might have them every quarter mile, and some places you might only have them... well, where's convenient to put them? I'd think you'd want to cover whole ridgelines but the faces of the mountain are not important, for example.

    I also think they should have GPS in them, so if they're moving, they can report accurately. This will let you put them on ships, buoys (tidal variation) and so on. Those GPS MOUSE usb gps devices are going for like fifty bucks on ebay, so how much can it cost to build them? Ten bucks? Twenty maybe? Well worth it in either case.

  • by paul_pick1 ( 540613 ) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @02:41PM (#7096295)
    Don't we already have the equivalent?

    Well, no, and that's the point. Current radar installations are huge and expensive. As a consequence, they are spread out hundreds of miles apart 'cause we can only afford a few. The coverage that they provide is really not all that great because radar only sees by reflecting off objects. Whatever is behind that object is invisible (in this case; object == cloud). With these smaller radars every 20 miles, the number of potential blind spots drops dramatically.

    Additionally, these smaller radars can see closer to the ground and provide higher resolution data than their larger counterparts. All good stuff for the met community.

  • Parasitic radar (Score:4, Interesting)

    by XNormal ( 8617 ) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @02:50PM (#7096380) Homepage
    I've heard of radars that receive at a different location from that where the signal is transmitted. Such radars are known as a bistatic radars. Some of them even use existing existing radiation sources such as TV stations.

    I wonder if it's practical for a network of weather radars. A receive-only radar should be cheaper and have less regulatory hurdles to jump.
  • by RealErmine ( 621439 ) <commerce@wor[ ]le.net ['dho' in gap]> on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @02:53PM (#7096420)
    you've got to wonder why Raytheon would pump $5M into it if there wasn't something in it for them...

    Raytheon makes the most radar systems in the U.S.. They make most of the radar systems in boats and in the planes you fly in as well as those at the airport. Who else would you want to make them?

    I'm not sure Raytheon could make radars that do more than track weather for ultra-cheap (relatively). Radars are very specifically designed for different purposes. It would involve some heavy software reliance and versatility to make a weather/aircraft/slashdot user tracking radar. I say this as an engineer that works for them.

    It certainly wouldn't be worth their money unless there was government funding behind it or there was the potential for vast investment from the military. I don't really see that here. It would, however, be worth the money to be responsible for/own a national weather tracking system.
  • by anubi ( 640541 ) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @03:35PM (#7096811) Journal
    "Next week on slashdot: Homemade doppler radar using only an old microwave..."
    You may be onto it. With mass production the way it is, I saw microwave ovens at Wal-Mart the other day, I think it was $39.95 or something like that. Now, these things have a 600 watt or more 2.45GHz magnetron and associated 3KV power supply in them. At that price? I don't know how they did it. But nevertheless, it shows the price points achievable with mass production.

    Now, you drive that maggie with a spread-spectrum code and you have the basis for a damn good radar. Because each radar can transmit with a different code, you will be able to pull out any particular emitter you are interested in for its phase delay observations, which contain the distance-to-reflector information you are seeking.

    This whole thing looks very do-able to me.

    I don't think they are using this technique though because the article seems to describe a higher frequency and use of beamforming techniques to do some phased-array stuff. Its gonna be interesting to see how they do it. I betcha it will spawn off a lot of related technologies for shorter range radar applications.

  • by MadHungarian1917 ( 661496 ) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @03:49PM (#7096964)
    1 - Get Ham License 2 - Get an old Kustom Signals KR-10 (OLD Police speed/doppler Radar and detune to move it into ham bands) 3 - Build a rotary mount with position encoder enclose in large round ball using analog outputs from radar unit convert into convenient digital format for display/crunching with your favorite signal processing application. 4 - Weather Radar (or was that Profit!)

If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith. -- Albert Einstein