Network for Lightning and Thunderstorms in Real Time
Project Description

"Blitzortung.org" is a lightning detection network for locating electromagnetic discharges in the atmosphere (lightning discharges) with VLF receivers based on the time of arrival (TOA) and time of group arrival (TOGA) method. We are a community of station operators who send their data to the computing servers, programmers who develop and/or implement algorithms for locating and visualizing of sferic positions, and people who assist in any way to keep the system running. There is no restriction on membership. All people who keep the network in operation are volunteers. There are no fees, terms and conditions, and no contracts. If a station stops pooling its data, the server stops providing the access to the raw data for the user of that station.

The network consists of more than 500 lightning receivers and some central processing servers. The sources of the signals we locate are in general lightning discharges. The abbreviation VLF (Very Low Frequency) refers to the frequency range of 3 to 30 kHz. The receiving stations approximately record one millisecond of each signal with a sampling rate of more than 500 kHz. With the help of GPS receivers, the arrival times of the signals are registered with microsecond precision and sent over the Internet to our central processing servers. Every data sentence contains the precise time of arrival of the received lightning discharge impulse ("sferic") and the exact geographic position of the receiver. With this information from several stations the exact positions of the discharges are computed.

The aim of the project is to establish a low budget lightning location network with a high number of stations. The price for the hardware currently is less than 300 Euro. The sferic positions are free accessible in raw format for all users that transmit their data to our servers. The station owners can use the raw data for all non-commercial purposes. The lightning activity is additionally displayed at our website on several public maps in real-time. The average delay is between 3 and 20 seconds depending on the load of our servers.

For the recording of the signals we have developed a special detector. This consists of several amplifiers and a digital part for processing and forwarding of data to our central processing server. To keep the cost of potential participants as low as possible, the participants should try to get as much as possible of the necessary electronic parts from local providers.

The community "Blitzortung.org" is primarily aimed to individuals with an interest in meteorology and competencies in electrical and computer engineering. For the construction and operation of a lightning detector a basic understanding of the used reception technique is necessary.

A detailed description about how to participate to the network and how to setup an own receiver can be found in the following document.
System BLUE

Our newest detector system is called "System Blue". It will replace the former detector system called "System Red". The essential difference between the two systems is the way how these systems are assembled. System Red is a kit with mainly wired components. System Blue contains mostly SMD parts. It will be delivered partially assembled. In addition, the amplifier and filter system have been changed as well as the digital part. System Blue is also prepared for an installation in a compact housing. This is achieved by the dimension of the controller board and the arrangement of the terminals. We will probably start with a minimal basic version similar to that what we are currently testing, see the pictures above. Later on, the system can be extended by further icomponents and adjusted according to the experience acquired.

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System RED (spring 2012 to autumn 2014)

The substantial progress of the detector system called "System Red" was the piggyback placed controller board with an STM32 F4 Mikrocontroller. From then, the system could be connected to a router and run without additional tracker program on a personal computer. Since autumn 2014, we do not deliver boards for the still up-to-date System Red. The assistance of the participants during the construction of the system was too time-consuming for us. We provide kits for Red System only in exceptional cases to interesting locations and to participants that have sufficient experiences with the construction of electronic devices.

System GREEN (until Spring 2014)
The detector system named "System Green" was our first hardware based on a time measurement. Initially, only the point in time was computed at which the signal has been exceeded a certain threshold. The controller provided counter values from which we could compute the time stamps with an accuracy of one microsecond. The time stamps were transmitted to our servers by a tracker program which was continously running on a personal computer. That is, the personal computer was continuously in operation. In the last phase of development, the system was equiped with A/D converters. Then the tracker programs sent 128 or 256 samples to the servers. Unfortunately, All these samples were recorded after the signal had exceeded the threshold. In the latest version of this system, the boards "PCB 6.7 / 6.8 PCB" were equiped with an USB interface interface. At the end of 2015, approximately 30% of our active stations were of type System Green.
A worldwide, real time, community collaborative lightning location network. © 2003-2016 Blitzortung.org Contributors
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