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DEVELOPMENT OF A LOW COST, NOVEL AND ACCURATE LIGHTNING MAPPING AND THUNDERSTORM (SUPERCELL) TRACKING SYSTEM

Final Report Summary - LOLIGHT (DEVELOPMENT OF A LOW COST, NOVEL AND ACCURATE LIGHTNING MAPPING AND THUNDERSTORM (SUPERCELL) TRACKING SYSTEM)

Executive Summary:
Industries and other sectors sensitive to lightning frequently report problems caused by lightning impacts. Even with the best available lightning protection, goods are at risk of damage or burning. While new European norms were published to help reduce the effects of lightning, many older buildings do not incorporate such protections. Many sensitive infrastructures, such as airports, hospitals, sports stadiums, and telephone and power lines (for electricity distribution and railways) are often affected by lighting. Also, electronic components are particularly vulnerable to lightning-induced transient voltages. Lightning is one of the leading weather-related causes of deaths and injuries . There are roughly 2000 thunderstorms in progress around the world at any one time, producing about 30 to 100 Cloud-to-Ground (CG) flashes each second, or about five million flashes a day.
Realizing the conditions on the current market with lightning data LoLight aims to provide for private meteorological stations/private weather companies an innovative, real-time, low-cost, user friendly and accurate sensor technology to localize lightning strikes. It will use data of detected strikes to track/monitor super-cells, thus predicting thunderstorm movements, which will help the companies to raise the level of their services and to have competitive advantage against big detection networks providing long-range (even global) detection coverage as they are intended to predict storm evolution and global risk, providing general data for statistical use.
The objectives of the project are to develop a low-cost system for lightning detection with an accuracy of 100m (the error range of current systems is of some hundred meters in best case scenarios, typically kms ), super-cell tracking, prediction of lightning events in real time and total mapping with archive of recorded historical lightning data within 200 km. Thanks to the whole mapping of lightning and the fact that differences exist between the emitted electromagnetic radiation profile of (Cloud-to-Ground) CG and Intra-Cloud (IC) discharges the systems will ensure 99% of identification of IC, CG and hybrid discharges.

Project Context and Objectives:
The overall objective of LoLight is to provide private meteorological stations/private weather companies with an innovative, real-time, low-cost, user friendly and accurate sensor technology to localize lightning strikes and track/monitor supercells, thus predicting thunderstorm movements, which will help them to raise the level of their services and to increase their competitiveness against the big lightning detection networks
In order to achieve the above-mentioned main objective, LoLight was broken down into the following objectives:
• To increase the knowledge on thunder generation and propagation
• To develop an experimental model and algorithm to clearly segment the VHF signature of CG and IC lightning, filter out other artefacts that would interfere with measurements, with reliability higher than 99%
• To develop an experimental model and algorithm to accurately locate (within 100 m) the strike point in an area of radius less than 200 km
• To develop an algorithm for tracing the movements of supercells by identifying the correlation between the measurements and the obtained boundary of the supercells. The algorithm shall forecast the movements of the supercells by an hour.
• To develop a lightning (electromagnetic radiation sources) localization set, incorporating at least 6 stationary sensors, including on-board RF signals acquisition, conditioning and GPS time tagging; and a remote Data Central Unit, comprising data processing and capability of real-time total lightning map reconstructing. The set will be cost effective for this market, with a target cost lower than €5900 / set
• To develop a wireless communication link based on mobile technology 3G and embedded Internet services to transmit sensor data to a remote Data Central Unit
• To develop a protocol that collects and links coherent lightning data of several stationary sensors in a network thus increases the coverage area
• To develop a web based service provider of the data constructed, based on the algorithm described in the scientific objectives, and passed, via 3G, by the Data Central Unit providing secure and fast access to lightning related information and also real-time notification of customers

Project Results:
The project was two years in duration and started on the 1st of January 2011 but later was extended to allow the testing period in the lightning season and finished on the 31st of August 2013. Results of the market research (including product research) were used to define functional and design specification. In accordance with the specification RTDs drew up each module of the system, which resulted in a System Concept. It consists of preliminary hardware architecture of the LoLight stationary sensors and software architecture of the LoLight web application.
In early month M1 also works on the field instrumentation setup and plan of lightning acquisition started. As the most optimal place for deployment of the sensors the area east of Vienna was selected. Compared to the originally proposed area of Graz the new location evinced lower disturbance as the network of meteorological stations in the area of Graz lies in urban/industrial areas. Other convincing reason for changing the location of the instrumentation was the vicinity to Vienna, which significantly lowers costs for traveling during the acquisition campaign. The used frequency bandwidth of 6MHz (67-73 MHz) for the RF measurements was selected based on the analysis of the allocation of frequencies in the VHF band in Austria and Hungary and measurements with the spectrum analyser carried out at the selected locations. The specific bandwidth determined selection of the right components from which the measuring stations consist.
The field instrumentation consists of a VHF receiver (sensitivity -98 dBm) with vertical polarisation ground plane antenna, LF receiver (25 dB gain) with corresponding antenna, data acquisition system, standard PC and HOBO weather station. Taking into consideration demands placed on the accuracy of measured data, delivery time, reliability and flexibility, it was decided to build the acquisition system of the stations on the PXI system from National Instruments. This system is composed of three basic components – chassis, controller (standard PC) and peripheral modules, in the case of our acquisition setup these were A/D converter (14bit resolution, 100MS/s) and GPS synchronization board. The process of analog/digital conversion of the received signal and saving of the measured data with exact time stamp was controlled automatically by developed program in LabView.
In the next phase effort was focused on the development of the model identifying electromagnetic pattern of the lightning bolt. For this purpose a MATLAB program was developed which calculates several parameters stores them in a .mat file for further investigations as lightning identification, calculation of the Time of Arrival (TOA), and supercell tracking. Some of the parameters will be calculated from the received signal already on the sensor station side of LoLight, others will be derived from them by the central web-server.
To achieve distinction reliability of 99% between IC and CG lightning it is necessary to measure in the VHF and the LF band. Therefore additionally the LF receiver is used for the LoLight setup. To decide whether it is a lightning event or not, a minimum of 4 stations must detect a significant signal within a certain time window, which depends on the distance between the detection stations.
To develop TOA based lightning location algorithms several methods were developed and tested (Newton Method, Gauss-Newton, Gauss-Newton-Marquardt, Matrix). The algorithms differ slightly in computation time and accuracy, however all of them higher accuracy of localization then 100m. The experimental thunder model and algorithm development continued with further testing on the Time of Arrival method and found that The Matrix method is non-iterative and thus much faster than the iterative Newton-Gauss-Marquardt method which was used before. A comprehensive model for the tracking of supercells based on lightning discharges was also developed. The algorithm utilizes the Monte Carlo method minimizing a cost function and yields a probabilistic forecast for the movement of the thunderstorm cells.

The signal processing module was also developed which was in charge of acquiring the signals from the VHF front end using an Analog to Digital Converter (ADC), save and process them extracting some parameters on real time. The first development was done using a microcontroller, the F28335 from Texas Instruments. During the development, some limitations were found. According the specification, the internal ADC can work up to 12MSPS. But if the MCU is configured to compare every acquired value with the threshold using an interrupt, the maximum speed was limited to 6MSPS (the minimum required was 10MSPS). To solve this problem, a new architecture was proposed. The selected solution was to use a FPGA combined with a MCU. The core of the FPGA was designed using VHDL programming language. First of all, 2 PLL were used to transform the external clock from 50MHz to 20MHz and 80MHz. The first one is used as a clock for the ADC, fixed at 20MSPS. The 80MHz is used as an internal clock for the system. A New PCB board was designed to integrate all the parts in one board. The board is composed by 1 ADC AD9432 for VHF and 2 ADC AD9432 for LF from analog devices that can work up to 100MSPS.
The network platform development included the development and integration of GPS and 3G/GPRS modules onto a PCB and combined with the newly selected MCU (Texas Instruments DSP (TI F28M35XX)) which included the design and the development of the main communication protocol to the Signal Processing Unit (SPU). A socket listener was developed that is responsible for the data logging, parameter calculation and for the communication between the server applications and the LoLight station. A simple webserver was created to run Matlab functions to provide the results via HTTP protocol to the web application and connect it to a MySQL server. A Model-View-Controller pattern based web application was also developed that displays the results of the Matlab algorithm and handles the user interactions as well as subscriptions and user alerts.
The system integration of the previous three activities incorporated the station components including the mechanical and electrical subsystems, the mechanical housing of the stations as well as the lightning detection algorithms, the communication interfaces and the back-end and front-end of the web portal. The prototype was successfully integrated according to the original designs and got ready for validation.
Six stations were installed in Budapest and the surrounding metropolitan area in Hungary at preliminarily selected places agreed by the Consortium. Consequently, the field tests and validations were carried out in that area too. The tracking algorithms were characterized, optimized and simplified in order to run appropriately within the available time-slots on the associated hardware configuration. The tracking and forecasting algorithms were working reliably in accordance with the expectations. At some of the measurements the unstable GPS synchronizations led to shortages of the data received by the server. The reason was probably that close to thunderstorm events the electromagnetic radiation could cause outage in the reception of the GPS signals. As the test system contained stations about 10-20 kms from each other, the lightning activities (and the associated electromagnetic radiations) took place relatively close to the detecting stations, causing unreliable operation of the GPS module.
The measurement results were compared to the radar pictures made by the national Hungarian Meteorological Service. The cells generated by the LoLight system fitted well the results of the radar. During the LoLight final meeting the partners decided that the six stations will stay on-site, enabling the continuation of their test operation.
The system tests and validation confirmed the viability of the LoLight system.

Potential Impact:
Economic Impact
The number and impacts of weather and climate-related events increased considerably between 1980 and 2011. There is an increasing trend of overall average economic losses by weather events for EEA member countries from EUR 9 billion in the 1980s to more than EUR 13 billion in the 2000s (values adjusted to 2011 inflation). Between 1980 and 2011, the economic toll of natural disasters in the whole of Europe approached EUR 445 billion in 2011 values. About half of all losses can be attributed to a few large events such as storms like Lothar in 1999, Kyrill in 2007 and Xynthia in 2010 according to EEA in November 2012. An average of 70 000 fires take place every year burning more than half a million hectares of the forested areas in Europe. Fire events show increased intensity and impacts in the last years with a high number of fatalities (1998–2009: 307) and large economic damages (approximately EUR 1.5 billion per year).
Recent estimates of the size of the 2006 market in value-added meteorological products of all types in the USA and Europe are of the order of yearly $1.4 billion and €530 million respectively. According to recent estimations the size of the available European end user market for weather related services is in the order of €2 x 10^11 yearly. It would appear that only about 0.3% of the potential European market in this sector is currently being supplied whereas in the US the equivalent figure is around 0.7%. Moreover recent reports show the US market has grown at an average rate of around 17% yearly over the past six or seven years while the European market has been growing at closer to 1.2% yearly in the same period. It can be pointed at that out of the twelve segments (weather instrumentation, weather forecasting, weather data provider, meteorological consulting services, forensic meteorology, specialty companies like lightning detection companies, air quality monitoring, weather system developers, media meteorology, weather risk management, weather education, staff meteorologists at industries) of private sector in applied meteorology, the weather risk management market boomed 60 times in the US compared to Europe (Weiss, Borders in Cyberspace: Conflicting Public Sector Information Policies and their Economic Impacts, 2002) There are other characteristics of the European meteorological market that bear examination and raise questions over the structure and operation of the sector. The real overall annual market growth in Europe has been languishing below 2% over the past five years, approximately one quarter of it that belongs to the private sector has been growing at around 25% per year meanwhile the remaining 75% of the METs has actually declined by around 1.5% per year according to Pettigrew in 2007. Estimates suggest that the European market value related to PSI was around EUR 32 billion in 2010 (OECD, 2013). Access to Public Sector Information greatly shapes the private meteorological businesses all around Europe as the quality and cost of weather data varies considerably across Europe (Peter Alaton of Fat Tails Financial Analysis AB citing from On Modelling and Pricing Weather Derivatives) but recently emerging discussion between the EU and the actors encourages the future for the private segment. Enormous benefits can be obtained from weather forecasts as PSI for the wider population. Some evidence shows that by fully exploiting public sector data, only governments could reduce their administrative costs. For Europe’s 23 largest governments, some estimate potential savings of 15% to 20%. This is the equivalent of EUR 150 billion to EUR 300 billion in new value. These estimates do not include the additional benefits that would arise from greater access to and more effective use of public-sector information, as called for by the OECD’s 2008 Council Recommendation, currently under review.

Social and Environmental impact
Lolight will contribute to improve the quality of life, health & safety in the sectors detailed in the financial plan. The technology will significantly improve the quality of life of people living in rural areas or in neighbourhoods adjacent to industrial areas or to businesses in which hazardous or flammable materials are utilized, as a quicker emergency service response time will reduce the risk of fire spreading to neighbouring homes.
The value for end users lies in both safety and financial concerns. Some types of activity are stopped as a routine safety measure if lightning is in the area in order to protect workers. This includes construction and maintenance work on exposed structures (power cables, wind turbines, oil/gas processing and storage) and airports. Financial savings come from allowing operators of equipment that can be damaged by lightning to take protective measures to avoid or minimize damage (electric distribution systems) or to respond more quickly to repair damage or manage a forest fire. Airports also need to minimize the lost time, although the main economic costs are paid by the airlines.
The largest economic impact of efficient use of lightning data is in airport ground operations. International regulations require stopping ground operations if lightning is within 3 miles of an airport. A comprehensive study for the US aviation authority indicates that direct and indirect costs to airlines and airport operators are thousands of dollars per minute. The study concluded that an accurate lightning detection and mapping system could reduce the standard 30 minute closure period and result in huge savings for airlines and airports. Loight will detect severe weather phenomena like Wind shear several dozens of minutes before its formation, thus the air traffic operators can signal warning to the pilots to prevent fatalities. Wind shear poses a threat to aviation safety all around the world, between 1990 and 2000 caused over 90 fatalities. Wind shear contributed in the TANS Airlines crash in Peru (2005) and in the FedEx cargo plane crash in Japan (2009)

Impact on Standards
The implementation of the LOLIGHT system will contribute to the EU’s Forest Action Plan in 2006 and the Commission’s intent to “work towards the further development of the European Forest Fire Information System”. The Commission also recognizes the importance of strengthening the competitiveness and economic viability of forestry, and in the framework of their priorities. LOLIGHT technology addresses various action items of the five-year Action Plan (2007–2011) which the Commission proposes to implement jointly with the Member Status, such as improving and protecting the environment, contributing to the quality of life and fostering coordination and communication. By helping to contain lightning-ignited forest fires, the technology will contribute to the achievement of goals set forth by the Kyoto Protocol by protecting the biodiversity, integrity, health and resilience of forest ecosystems. Forests act as carbon sinks and can produce renewable and environmentally friendly raw materials and energy feedstock. However, about 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to land use changes, that include deforestation (from forest fires or agricultural use), among others. By supporting forest fire prevention methods, LOLIGHT will also support European Agriculture and Rural Development Fund (EARDF) initiatives. The development of novel fire containment technology will also contribute to the many national, European and international standards for fire alarm systems such as the newly revised UL 864 (Standard for Control Units and Accessories for Fire Alarm Systems), or the European Commission's Construction Products Directive (CPD) that covers the components of fire detection and fire alarm systems. LOLIGHT technology will be the key to the future development of protection and prevention normative, which will require the development of technologies that result in valid and realistic solutions. LoLight will also facilitate the intention of the Threat and Error Management Framework of Aviation safety, which is embraced by airlines worldwide and recognized as an international best practice by, among others, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the Joint Aviation Authorities, the International Air Transport Association, the National Air Transport Association, and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. As TEM offers an intuitive and flexible approach to practical risk management, including analyzes of severe weather related threats and proposing of safety protocols; by a low cost tool, such as LoLight, with these safety recommendations can be complied by small airports now.

Time to Market
The research and development is pre-competitive and subsequent demonstration will be necessary to gain wider market acceptance. The time to market of a working industrial unit can be expected within 15 months of the end of the project.

Transnational approach
The use of LOLIGHT technology will greatly facilitate achieving improved protection of property and human life resulting from lightning-ignited fires and will result in raising the quality of fire detection standards across Europe, not just in a given Member State. Consortium members aim for the EU-wide implementation of LOLIGHT technology, given the significant social, environmental and economic consequences of lightning fires. Consequently, the technology is particularly relevant to lumber and forest owners, as the number. The consortium constitutes a realistic supply chain partnership with a wide representation in all areas required for the development of the LOLIGHT technology. Consortium partners together have a trans-national delivery capability that will satisfy initial pan-European demand for the product. Additionally, implementation of LOLIGHT technology will help the EU become a leader and driving force in lightning alarm and forest-fire containment technology. Given the European and transnational nature of this project, LOLIGHT will contribute to the policy objectives of the Seventh Framework Programme by creating a European Research Area, the purpose of which is to establish a border-free zone for research, in which scientific resources will be better deployed by pooling of resources and expertise, to create more jobs and to improve Europe's competitiveness.

List of Websites:

www.lolight.eu
www.lolight.mfkk.eu
lolight@mfkk.hu