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FAQ for station operators can be found here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I get a lightning detector for participating

Register here if you want to buy a kit and participate in the network: Cover Your Area ⧉. The form is roughly in the center of the page.

First of all, you have to assemble your lightning detector by yourself. We do not offer complete assembled station. We only offer certain parts or kits. Sometimes participants of assemble stations for friend and others. We cannot give here any names or addresses of these friendly people. The best place to find them is a forum. This is the link to the lightning location forum.

What is the price?

The total price for the necessary parts is less than 300 Euro for System Blue. The prices will differ from country to country. Note that this is only the price for the material really necessary. It does not include a housing for the assembled boards or the material to mount the antennas under the roof or outside. However, it is not strictly necessary to use a housing or a water proof out-door mounting. Many participants have mounted the components on a plastic board and use ferrite rod antennas in-doors. What you additional need in any case is a wired internet connection, two days of time for assembling and installing such a system, and some experiences in soldering electronic components. Building a lightning detector and its operation is not plug and play.

How do I check where I am on the waiting list?

You can query your rank, by sending a request with the same email address here: Cover Your Area ⧉. The form is roughly in the center of the page.

What do I have to know to be able to assemble and run such a system?
  • You own a file, a solder iron for electronic parts and an assortment of screwdrivers and you are able to use these tools.
  • You are not afraid of soldering electronic parts to a PCB.
  • If you want to build your own antennas you may benefit from some electromechanical skills.
  • You have a quiet place for the antenna. Quiet means low electromagnetic noise. It is not the best idea to place the antenna above the micro wave between the TV set and the PC. It should be as far away from electronic devices and power lines as possible.
  • You have an Ethernet port at this quite place. If not, you are able to get one there.
  • This Ethernet port has a constant connection to the Internet. There is some data throughput. It can be up to one gigabyte per day.
  • You need a power supply, for the station (and the network equipment). It may be PoE, it may be a wall wart power supply or a linear power supply.
  • You have some device with a web browser to use the web page of the controller for status display and settings.
What is the detecting range of a station?

This question is similar to the question "How far can I see?" If it is foggy, you cannot see more than 50 meters, but on a starry night you can see stars having a distance of lightyears. If a lightning discharge is very strong and the propagation conditions are well, the signal can be received over several thousands of kilometers even with small antennas. This is the case especially at night over the ocean. If a lightning discharge is very weak, it is difficult to receive it even with large antennas in a distance of only 50 km. When using 20 cm ferrite rod antennas you will receive signals from thunder storms up to 1000 km at day, and over 2000 km at night. If you use larger antennas in more quiet environments, the signal to noise ratio will increase, and you can receive signals up to 3000 km. This also depends very much on the location of the antennas. The range will increase dramatically if your antenna is placed in an electromagnetically quiet area outside a city on a hill and it will decrease if it is placed in an urban area inside a building.

Some participants are more interested to receive close lightning discharges instead of distant lightning discharges. They waive the long range fine tuning and concentrate to trim the system for close lightning discharges. The challenge to receive close lightning discharges such that they can be used for the computations is to separate pre- and post-discharges from the main stokes.

What is the detection accuracy of the system?

The answer to that questions is not so easy, as we would have to compare the positions from a lot of observed strikes with those we measured. You are welcome to report strike observations to us, but you must write down the exact time and position of the strike! You can also use a video-camera for this purpose.

There is another method to estimate the accuracy: Some tall structures, like antenna masts, radio towers or wind mills are struck much more often by lightning than other areas. When displaying all detected strokes of a long time period (i.e. one year) on a map, a cloud of strikes can be seen around some of those tall structures. This cloud has a diameter of roundabout one kilometer for countries with a high station density. That’s all we can say. We currently don’t have any authoritative scientific values for that. Please note that this method doesn’t say anything about the accuracy of a single stroke. We also cannot tell you anything about the strokes, which are misplaced by several kilometers.

The accuracy varies much in different regions of our network. Higher station density will increase the accuracy and yield for that area. That’s why additional stations are needed even in those areas where you already can see lightning data. See also Question 6.

Does the network register every stroke?

No, probably not. It depends mainly on station coverage of the specific region. In regions with low station coverage, almost only the strong lightning discharges will be detected, as their signals can be received easily in a distance of several thousand kilometers (see Question 2). These are mainly CG ones (cloud-to-ground). The power of IC lightning (intra-cloud) is lower and the alignment of our antennas is optimized for CG.

Can you differentiate between CG or IC lightning and show polarity and current?

Currently not, but it is planned. The RED and BLUE stations already provide all needed data to determine the values. Please note, that several estimations have to be made, so these values can be inaccurate. But it’s the same for all other lightning detection systems. Even if some commercial networks say that they can always clearly differentiate between CG or IC, there’s also a big uncertainty.

What are the best distances between the detectors?

Lightning detectors are best placed in a distance between 50km to 300km around the lightning discharges. However, even if there is another station nearby, it is still interesting for the project to place a station beside the existing one. The reason for that is very simple. Only 50 % of all stations will work continuously and only 50 % of the running stations are perfectly adjusted. The TOA lightning location network is based on "Give and Take". Your station best contributes to the computations if it is placed in a distance between 50 km and 300 km from the discharge. If the storm is nearby, your station usually overrides. Even a very low pre-discharge will cause a very high signal strength because of its low distance.

Can I get the source code for the Firmware and the layout data of the PCBs?

In recent years, our lightning detection system growth and become more popular and more successful. Unfortunately, this also increased the number of people who just want to copy our system instead of joining our community and working together with us. To protect our work in that we have invested several thousands of hours of our free time, we provide the sources of the Firmware and the layout data of the PCBs only for selected familiar members of the project which we already know for a long time.

Can I make own PCBs

Yes, you might do that, but please contact us before. Please note, that we’ve designed our current PCB layout the way it is for a good reason. There are always improvements possible, but not all make sense when regarding the whole process from testing, manufacturing, assembling to support. We release new PCB versions from time to time to improve the system and to add new features. If you have own suggestions, then you are welcome to tell us about them, so we could integrate them in the next release.


If lightning detectors don't provide the same signal quality and characteristics GPS 1PPS timing as our own detectors, the resulting lightning detection accuracy from our servers can get worse or even fail. Keep this in mind when designing and building stations with own hardware and sending the data to our servers.

Is it possible to build such a hardware with RaspberryPi, Arduino or similar?

Theoretically yes. But you always would have to connect separate (expensive) A/D-converters, because most of such CPUs have only bad or slow ones integrated. Our CPU has them implemented on the same die. Other hardware can have different behavior regarding timing. An 100% equal timestamping of all stations is very important for a good accuracy. For the same reason, we use a bare metal firmware without any OS. This gives full control over the hardware and its timing.