Frequently Asked Questions

original source1)

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.

This thread gives you information on how to order a detector.

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 Blitzortung.org 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.

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.

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.

  • 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 devises 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 may well be one giga byte 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.

See the Operating instructions of System BLUE.

See the Operating instructions of System RED.

On your Blitzortung operators page, configure your station properly.
First, make sure 'anonymous' is “N” or no other operators can see your signals or station info and advise you, especially regarding the antenna configurations.
ALWAYS and SPECIFICALLY:
ANY input with NO antenna must be UNDEFINED
Input 0 = H A (1)
Input 1 = H B (2) or Undefined if not used
Input 3 = H C (3) or Undefined if not used, or if using for Horizontally polarized detection ONLY
Input 4 = E — ALWAYS or Undefined if not used
Input 5 = UNDEFINED
Input 6 = UNDEFINED
The above is for the operator's configuration page. Now, make sure you enter the antenna type specifications correctly, exactly, etc.
Any undefined input will have NO specs or tick boxes.

One with low noise, 5V, 1A or more, USB-B mini 5 pin.

Check whether the host name blitzortung is known in your network: in a shell use the command 'ping blitzortung'. If this works, type into your web-browser http://blitzortung/. As an alternative check your router to identify the IP address of the blitzortung controller.

original source 2)

First, put the station in Manual Mode..,. Automatic will drive the gains up and down, and you can cycle in and out of interference.
Make Sure your antennas and amp are NOT near noise sources…. Make sure you have a good power supply…

then…
With total manual… turn off the optional filters.
set gains to 10*10 H field, and 4*2 E field…\\
set thresholds at 100mv…
With NO signals present, check your noise levels… average.. touch up the gains so they're somewhere around 20-40mv… as close to 20 as possible perhaps… 40 is borderline.
We've two types of junk we're looking at… “always there”, and “Sporadic”…
Now, the “always”
adjust thresholds first, then / or gain for that channel so that the 'always' noise DOES NOT trigger a signal…and apply / save. Try to accommodate gains so that you can keep the standard threshold at 100MV if possible. You may then adjust it later on a specific channel… Now your 'ambient' always present sources shouldn['t trigger anything… Call this Baseline #1
Then…
Ideally, you want to operate so that the WORST sporadic interference doesn't trigger a signal. You're still in absolute manual, with the optional filters off. That should put you into 'ambient' operation Baseline #2… while doing this, keep your threshold at least twice what the ambient 'noise grass' (no signal) level may be.

If you have an obvious noise source at , say 150kHZ, you could adjust the optional filter to cut off at about 130-140 kHz… you'd monitor each channel, for a period of time, diurnally, weekends, etc… and gradually fine tune these settings…. Now, what you determine this week, may change in July… or November… simply because the total environment changes…

You WILL have junk, or nearby cells, that may at times create too many signals, or activate a temporary 'interference' situation.. the system is designed to do that… if they're temporary, great… accept it, and move on… leave stuff alone… Junk signals are ok… the server knows the difference… even if Impulse triggers, and the noise is sent… you just don't want Noise controlling your system… remember “lightning does the work”… You may no longer detect signals in California… so what??? We've other stations to do that… it's the 'NETWORK' doing what it's supposed to do…there's no 'competition' between stations… or shouldn't be… heh… every environment is different, at different times, and scenarios. Later on, you might experiment with Automatics… but you're going to be chasing ghosts if you operate that way while establishing you ambient operating baselines,… wasting your time, and peace of mind. Over the years I've experimented with the autos… and determined that in my environment they are basically worthless for consistent operation…. that is NOT true for many stations, but you may very well be a member of the “Cutty Sark Sailor Manual Mode Mob”……

The single most important thing is the [Apply] button. Press it when yoiu changed a setting and you want it to become active. The second important thing is the [Save now] button. Press it if you want the configuration survive a reset of the controller.

You power on for the very first time

Settings::Main::Remote Control

  • Mode: Automatic Mode

As soon as you saw your station being active on LMO

See LMO.

Settings::Main::Remote Control

  • Mode: Manual Mode

Settings::Main::Tracker

  • DSP Frequency Filter: off (doesn't work as of now with FW 9.1)
  • Auto Adapt to Noise: off - You may want to play with it later.
  • Auto Amplitude Filter: off - You may want to play with it later.
  • Number of Samples: 512 - Don't touch it! Shall be the same for all controllers in the network.
  • Samples before Trigger: 256 - Don't touch it! Shall be the same for all controllers in the network.
  • Ignore Signals below Threshold: 100% - there are different opinions i.e. 10%

Settings::Network::IP Configuration

  • DHCP: on - keep it enabled even if you do not intend to use it. The day will come where you are happy it works.
  • Static IP: - If you don't know the meaning, don't touch it.
  • Static Netmask: - If you don't know the meaning, don't touch it.
  • Static Gateway: - If you don't know the meaning, don't touch it.
  • Static DNS: - If you don't know the meaning, don't touch it or enter 8.8.8.8.
  • MAC Address: - If you don't know the meaning, don't touch it. You may want to note it down. Sometimes it can help identifying the device in the network. I.e. the router keeps track of MAC and IP address pairs.
  • Static IP: - If you don't know the meaning, don't touch it.
  • NTP Server: off - If you want to use the GPS time as time source in your network, you may want to enable it.

Settings::Network:: Web Interface

  • Need authentication: depending on your security needs
  • Username: depending on your security needs
  • Password: depending on your security needs
  • Allow guest access: depending on your security needs
  • Port: 80 - 80 is the standard port for http. If you change it you need to access the controller differently. I.e. with port 8080 as, http://blitzortung:8080/

Settings::GPS::GPS Module

  • Baudrate: 115200 - Select the highest speed your GPS module allows.
  • Always init on boot: off
  • No automatic init: off
  • Use SBAS: off - You may want to play with it later.
  • GNSS: GPS - GPS is the time source of the Blitzortung system. Additional systems are optional. Depending on the FW of the GPS controller some GNSS systems may not be supported.

Settings::Amp 1::Parameters

  • Channel A/B/C::Status: 'Disabled' if no antenna is connected, 'Don't send' while playing with the settings, 'Normal' to send data to the Blitzortung server.
  • Channel A/B/C::Gain: Start with a low gain, preferably the first of the two factors is the higher one, the second the smaller one. Increase the gain until you see a noise level of 20 to 25 mV on the Signals page.
  • Channel A/B/C: HP off - You may want to play with it later. Note: HP on multiplies the gain by a factor of 4.
  • Channel A/B/C Threshold: Start with two times the noise level you see on the signals page. You may want to play with it later.

Settings::Amp 1::Filters

  • Channel A/B/C Filter: Disabled - If you need it, enter a value between 25 and 300 kHz and enable it.

Settings::Amp 2

  • analog to Amp 1

Settings::Sampling::A/D Converter

  • Samplerate: 500 kHz - Don't touch it! Shall be the same for all controllers in the network.

Settings::Sampling::Nuzzer

  • any setting: As you like. Off may be the better option as it does not need processing power.

Settings::System::System

  • Voltage Check: on
  • CPU Sleep: on
  • Flash Prefetch: off
  • USB Virtual COM Port: off - Unless you want to see log messages sent through the micro-USB connection.
  • Daily Reboot: empty

Settings::System::Debug

  • Debug *: off - If you are interested in a certain type of messages, enable it.
  • Hide Hardfaults: off
  • Syslog Server IP: empty - Or an IP address of the syslog server the debug messages shall be sent to.

Settings::Actions::Actions

  • Action 1..5, Name: empty
  • URL: empty

Settings::Alerts::Lightning Alerts

  • Alert1..2: Min.Strokes: 0

Tools:Buzzer

  • disabled

L = Signal is below the threshold
P = Signal is below threshold * adjustable_percentage
S = Spike detected
M = Amplitude too high (currently not enabled)
A = Automatic filter by amplitude

These are 'automatic' filters and are always on. If a channel is marked red, then it might no be used for sending. Only if the time above the graph is red, the whole signal won't be sent. Some filters flags like “L” or “A” must be present on all channels, so that a signal won't be sent (“AND” condition). Other's, like “S” need only one filtered channel, and the whole signal won't be sent.

Those lines are the noise levels.

First answer: No.
Second answer: No, even if there is i.e. a relative strong and constant 77 kHz signal from DCF77. Most likely the system performance is still better when the LP is inactive.
Third answer: If you have a dominant noise source at a frequency above 25 kHz, you may want to enable the LP filter with a frequency of 25 kHz or higher.

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.

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.

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.

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 differentiate between CG or IC, there’s always a big uncertainty (which they won’t tell you).

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.

  • The GPS antenna is a must have.
  • The E-field antenna is optional. It is pretty fast to make. Just get e.g. 10 cm of a 1 mm² to 2.5 mm² wire and you are done.
  • The H-field antenna is optional. If you go for this option, you may use loops or ferrit rods. Either two at 90° or three at 60°. For ferrite rods there is also an option with three perpendicular.

You need either one of E-field or H-field antenna. You can also use both.

The main reason why we use a GPS module is the time measuring. The TOA (time of arrival) lightning location method is based on a high precision time measuring of the lightning discharge with an accuracy of less than ±1 µs. A time difference of ±1 µs corresponds to an distance difference of ± 300 m. Such a high precision time measurement is only possible with a GPS module that outputs a 1PPS (1 pulse per second) signal. Other techniques like using the DCF77 signal are not adequate for such a high precision time measurement. The additional output of the exact geographic position of the site is a pleasant side effect of GPS devices.

Your system WILL NOT send if GPS does not lock in properly. Data will be bad. The “availability” on the status page needs to reach 95% … it may take several minutes. It is locked when you get a 1pps signal under most conditions.

FIXME: Is 95% the correct value for the required availability? Is it different for RED and BLUE?

Yes, you can try other modules with serial interface and 1PPS signal, but we cannot support it. Don’t use modules for GLONASS or Compass as they have other time bases. The European Galileo might work in the future, as it’s clocks are synchronized with GPS.

GPS antennas should always be placed outside or at least at a window. Be careful, that some (newer) windows are metalized, which means that GPS signals cannot pass them to. A placement close to a thin (wooden) house wall or below the rooftop could also work, as long as there is no metal inside. Please note, that the GPS frequencies, which are between 1 and 2 GHz, cannot pass dense matter very well. You can verify reception also with your smartphone with disabled(!) WiFi or test with a car navigation system.

It should be placed high and far away from electrical installations.

Magnetic has no need to be placed high since the magnetic field is not easily attenuated. They must be minimum some meter from other electrical installations - In the garden just above the ground is ok, or attic, or balcony.

The ferrite antennas do not require alignment. However, the two antennas should be placed horizontally (parallel to earth surface) and perpendicular to each other. Such a setup covers all directions equally. The direction of the signals is not determined, only the exact time of the signal arrival is recorded and used during data processing.

FIXME add content

See discussions here: Interference and Noise

FIXME add content

Compression artifacts.
In order to save bandwidth the analog signal is (optionally) compressed before sending it to the Blitzortung server. This compression is lossy. The server “restores” the noise as a certain number of samples with a min and max level as zigzag.

If the data compression is enabled… you won't see it on your local signals page, but it is often visible on your station signals page on the server, if the feature is being 'shown'… it looks like a series of 'hash marks' or 'interference' obscuring portions of you 'server' displayed signal… that data is 'not used'.

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.

There are several connected projects like MyBlitzortung or Smartphone Apps which are open source. Every help here would be appreciated.

The main thread about this topic in the forum is Machine Room. For explanations and questions regarding server and service states, go there. There you can also find the links to the Service Monitor and the Server Monitor.

Unfortunately not. It is attached to the on-board programmer and cannot be accessed by the CPU.

Sorry, no. It is always recommended to wait until you have the PCBs from us and then order the needed parts.

You should not. 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. SMD versions of the PCBs are available with System Blue.

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.