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Camp Merrill Sets up a Complex Network of Weather Stations


Vehicle-mounted WEATHERPAK weather stations at Camp Merrill

Sept 13, 2010: On D-Day (June 6, 1944) the 2nd Ranger Battalion bravely scaled the cliffs of Normandy surprising the Nazi's and clearing the way for the US invasion forces. Nearly every war which has been fought has had some type of mountain operations, creating challenges for moving people and equipment. Weather is a key factor as it can differ from one valley to the next and many mountains create their "own" weather.

To prepare and practice for their slated missions, Camp Merrill (site of the 5th Ranger Training Battalion and the mountain phase of the US Army Ranger School) has set up a network of weather monitoring stations covering their mountainous training region. The installation of eight weather stations was completed in March. It included an Aviation Weather Observing System (fixed), three smaller ZENO® basic weather stations (fixed), and four mobile WEATHERPAK® units. The AWOS is installed at the base airfield, the ZENOs are installed on three different mountains around the base where training missions occur, and the four WEATHERPAKs are mounted on HUMVEE vehicles for mobile deployment.

All three of these types of stations use different forms of communication, so networking them to send information to one database was a challenge. The AWOS station uses a direct cable, the ZENOs a UHF radio connection and the mobile WEATHERPAKs an Iridium (satellite) link. One of the biggest issues was that because the WEATHERPAKs are "mobile" AND in mountainous terrain, the marines can drive them into spots that can't make a satellite connection. "But if they move 5 feet to the right or left—bingo—you've got data" reported Coastal's VP of Product Development, Tim Parker. "The bigger issue is the way Iridium charges. Every time you call the satellite, it costs you money—even if no data gets through, so the stations were calling—not getting a strong enough connection, hanging up—calling again, etc. ($$$)" Coastal modified their software to first "ping" the satellite to get a measure of signal strength (the COTS transmitters don't have this feature). If the strength is low—they wait—until it is better—then send the data—thus saving the customer considerable amounts of money.

With the final delivered system, Coastal was able to network all the systems, so that all the data was linked together and could be viewed on a single display unit. "Successfully networking these different stations was a complex job that pushed our software team use new problem solving techniques", said Parker.


For more information, contact:

Kevin North, Vice President, Sales & Marketing
Coastal Environmental Systems

p. 206.315.4900