The Life Cycle of a Radiosonde

Federico Flores Department of Geophysics, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile

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Roberto Rondanelli Department of Geophysics, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile

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Marcos Díaz Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile

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Richard Querel Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile

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Karel Mundnich Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile

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Luis Alberto Herrera Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile

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Daniel Pola Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile

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Tomás Carricajo Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile

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The development of scientific instruments was, only a few years ago, confined to universities and electronics companies having highly specialized human and/or technical resources. With the advent of open hardware initiatives, engineers, scientists, hobbyists, and even people with limited electronic skills have been able to tinker with complex electronic systems. Taking advantage of these inexpensive and widely available tools and in the context of an engineering project class for undergraduates, the authors set about building a working radiosonde prototype from the ground up, based on an open hardware platform and easily accessible components.

As a result, a fully functional radiosonde has been built that measures, records, and transmits pressure, temperature, humidity, and wind, plus a small camera that stores images on a flash card. A release system was also developed so that the radiosonde can be detached from a balloon upon reaching a certain height, pressure level, or flight time. Once it is released, one can attempt the recovery of the radiosonde with the help of a precalculated trajectory using a numerical mesoscale forecasting model and visualization software. The performance of the sonde was compared with two commercial radiosondes using climate chambers and two field launches. This paper also discusses some of the more interesting capabilities foreseeable for such a platform: 1) collaboration between meteorology and engineering departments in both education and research, and 2) development of a flexible hardware platform that allows for an effective way to compare different commercially available sensors and to easily integrate new prototype sensors.

CORRESPONDING AUTHOR: Roberto Rondanelli, Department of Geophysics, University of Chile, Av. Blanco Encalada 2002, Postal Code 8370449, Santiago, Chile, E-mail: ronda@dgf.uchile.cl

The development of scientific instruments was, only a few years ago, confined to universities and electronics companies having highly specialized human and/or technical resources. With the advent of open hardware initiatives, engineers, scientists, hobbyists, and even people with limited electronic skills have been able to tinker with complex electronic systems. Taking advantage of these inexpensive and widely available tools and in the context of an engineering project class for undergraduates, the authors set about building a working radiosonde prototype from the ground up, based on an open hardware platform and easily accessible components.

As a result, a fully functional radiosonde has been built that measures, records, and transmits pressure, temperature, humidity, and wind, plus a small camera that stores images on a flash card. A release system was also developed so that the radiosonde can be detached from a balloon upon reaching a certain height, pressure level, or flight time. Once it is released, one can attempt the recovery of the radiosonde with the help of a precalculated trajectory using a numerical mesoscale forecasting model and visualization software. The performance of the sonde was compared with two commercial radiosondes using climate chambers and two field launches. This paper also discusses some of the more interesting capabilities foreseeable for such a platform: 1) collaboration between meteorology and engineering departments in both education and research, and 2) development of a flexible hardware platform that allows for an effective way to compare different commercially available sensors and to easily integrate new prototype sensors.

CORRESPONDING AUTHOR: Roberto Rondanelli, Department of Geophysics, University of Chile, Av. Blanco Encalada 2002, Postal Code 8370449, Santiago, Chile, E-mail: ronda@dgf.uchile.cl
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