September 11, 2007

Experimental setup for ad-hoc long-distance wireless camera and weather sensor deployment

With HPWREN's interest in integrated systems, an attempt was made to create a solid-state integrated wireless camera and weather station setup, with the potential for a data communication reach of several miles. HPWREN staff had tried a similar setup already years ago, utilizing the serial line input of a wireless IQeye3 camera. The activity was discontinued then, in large part due to the less than straightforward communication protocol used to get the weather data from the sensor, with often difficult to obtain documentation about the protocol. For ad-hoc deployments, instruments with moving parts such as wind cups and a wind vane are also somewhat unattractive, as those are often pieces sticking out that can easily break off during transport.

Integrated weather station solutions that accomodate multiple sensors, are all solid state, and have a documented digital data output are available now. The example experimented with here is a Vaisala WXT510, which is an about $2,000 instrument. Unfortunately the instrument is not seem to be extendable, to accomodate things like fuel moisture and fuel temperature, but otherwise supplies various needed metrics.

wireless camera/weather sensor
wireless camera/weather sensor

The above images show the complete sensor setup, which includes the IQeye3 camera, the Vaisala WXT510 weather sensor, a directional antenna, and a battery. The camera delivers high-resolution digital images, as well as pixel-based motion detect images that include pre-event image buffers. The all-digital-output solid state weather sensor measures wind speed and direction, air temperature, relative humidity, air pressure, rain, hail, and its supplied voltage.

It was possible to connect the WXT510 serial output to the serial input of an IQeye3 camera. The camera also accomodates an 802.11b wireless card with an external-antenna connector. This allowed adding a directional antenna for long distance communication outside of the camera enclosure. Both the IQeye3 and the WXT510 have a very wide input voltage range, easily allowing them to be powered by an unregulated 12 or 24 Volt battery.

wireless camera/weather sensor

This closeup of the space inside of the camera enclosure shows the IQeye3 camera connecting the weather sensor via the serial line, the power connections, and the PCMCIA wireless card in the bottom-back of the camera. Power in this setup is provided by a small sealed lead-acid battery. For longer-term deployment a larger battery, or even solar or AC power, could be used.

The equipment cost for the whole setup is below $4,000. Integrated solutions such as this could be useful for many applications. A possible example application could be ad-hoc deployable stations for thresholded fire perimeter alarms, like for the firefighter Incident Command Posts which HPWREN deploys data communications for. Http://hpwren.ucsd.edu/news/041106.html shows an example where firefighters are already receiving automated pager alarms in real time by a computer program working off thresholded data, which could be extended to ad-hoc setups such as this.

This computer screen dump shows the camera output and once-per-second raw weather data from when the above photos were taken.

wireless camera/weather sensor

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