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Development of a high resolution, low cost, short range precipitation radar system

Final Report Summary - MARG (Development of a high resolution, low cost, short range precipitation radar system)

Executive Summary:
The estimation and quality of recorded rainfall play a vital role in the performance of the European sewer systems, water treatment plants, irrigation requirements and advanced recognition of a developing flood threat. Heavy rain frequently overwhelms urban sewage systems, which cause rapid flooding in cities. The unnecessary use of water for irrigation on farms increases costs significantly. Accurate, local level rainfall data is critical for customers of weather data service providers, as they can save multimillion euros on rainfall related investment for improving these systems. Currently, the common methods to measure rainfall include the use of rain gauges or long range weather radars. Rain gauges are used for direct measurement of rainfall intensity near land. As rain gauge measures precipitation in one single point, a network application of gauges is necessary to keep deviation less than 5 %. To own and operate an individual rain gauge often cost as much as € 1100 in a month (including 25% of essential maintenance and repair cost). For a company to own and operate a network of 50 gauges the annual costs can approach 300,000 €. Rain gauge networks are often poorly designed and sited which result in unreliable data that cannot be used. The loss of cost can reach 75%. Long range weather radars work as very densely situated rain gauges, but the price of long range weather radars are not affordable for large part of end-users, especially for SMEs. Participating SMEs of the MARG project realized that there is a clear need for a cheaper and innovative measurement device. The MARG project aims to develop an innovative, accurate, real-time and user friendly measurement system monitoring spatial distribution and intensity of rain in rural and urban scale for commercial weather data and value-added forecast product suppliers.
Project Context and Objectives:
The MARG system will provide reliable rainfall measurement data to supply the needs of end-users. It will couple unique accuracy (<100 m spatial resolution) in optimal range (<30 km) for localised measurement of rain intensity and spatial distribution. The MARG system will combine state-of-the-art solid-state microwave technology, digital signal processing, and GIS technology with novel precipitation measurement algorithms. The system will include: (1) C-band power amplifier modules and a low-noise amplifier, (2) a digital-radar module, (3) parabolic antennas with a rotation system and mechanical frame, (4) hardware for sensor data management and customer service, and (5) software packages for sensor control and user-center operation. The MARG precipitation sensors provide precipitation intensity data for the web server in the User Centre. Here the precipitation intensity information is combined with the GIS database including the geographical information of the target area. The system will provide on-line precipitation data available on the Web for MARG data prescribers. The online data transfer towards the end users is provided by the User Centre web server. The database will include precipitation data, measurement identification, and auxiliary meteorological data. The sensors include innovative frequency modulated continuous wave (FMCW) precipitation radar with an RF front-end and antennas operating in the C-band (at 5.6 GHz). The radar control and the signal processing are based on field-programmable gate array (FPGA) electronics.
The value for the customers will be increased safety and better production with reduced costs. MARG has the potential to provide reliable data for private water sector operators and municipalities that are responsible for the optimal operation of distributed water systems, sewages and treatment plants which can cost billions of euros. By improving the scheduling of watering and applying fertilizers it can potentially save up 25% for agricultural holdings in farming costs. The system can further support hydropower companies to optimize production capacity, insurance companies in investigating weather claims, and leisure planners to protect people and goods from damages.
Main Objectives:
• To realize a relatively lower commercial price than current solutions;
• To realize a pre-competitive product that will enable participants to reach the targeted return on investments;
• To identify rain type events using Doppler spectrum data;
• To develop high grade clutter cancellation algorithm in order to eliminate scattering data on stationary objects in the area;
• To create the C-band RF Frontend
• To develop the Frequency Modulated Continuous-wave (FMCW) Doppler signal processing algorithm using one FPGA module
• To develop GIS based algorithms for hydrological end user application containing 3D
geographical data and accurate rain intensity display
• To develop the WEB based data transfer of the MARG data processing the data output of 2 installed MARG prototypes
• To integrate all components into the final MARG prototype containing 2 MARG sensors and 1 user centre and to validate it
• To demonstrate the C band FMCW capabilities for areal rainfall monitoring and measurements

Project Results:
The project was two years in duration, but due to technical difficultie two additional months were requested and approved for the execution. It started on the 1st of November 2012 and finished on the 31st December 2014.
During the beginning of the project , the partners conducted intensive technology and literature search on current systems on the market, technical solutions and possible components to be used in MARG system
Based on the information gained and the expertise of partners Consortium created the system specification of MARG. Partners agreed on the primary system requirements, and based on that RTD partners created the specification of each sub-system.
Based on the system specification, the Consortium started development of each sub-system of MARG.
In WP2 partners with the lead of TUG developed the system design of the radar frontend and provided the necessary details for the development phase of the radar frontend hardware. Based on the system design partners started development of the RF-Frontend. At this phase, patners had several discussions on the cooling solution to be used, final a conductive solution was selected. During the manufacturing of the modules the Consortium faced additional difficulties, due to the high complexity of the electronic parts. These problems caused a significant delay in the delivery of the modules, which affected the integration and testing part of the project, although by the end of the project the hardware modules were ready.
In WP3 partners with the lead of TUG developed the basic design of the radar frontend signal processing software and provided the necessary details for the development phase. Based on the initial design partners developed the software parts, the FPGA firmware, the signal processing software and the frontend control software. Due to the delays with the hardware the firmware implementation of the data interfaces and the integration was also delayed and could not be accomplished by the end of the project.
In WP4 partners with the lead of ATEKNEA selected the suitable commercially available antenna type which satisfies the specifications requirements of the MARG system. Partners validated the antennas with simulations and measurements.
The mechanical part of the MARG antenna is developed to be robust, reliable and safe in extreme environmental circumstances. The rotation hardware module is controlled from the user interface via robust driver electronics. The control related electronics for antenna positioning and rotation is based on a reliable industrial programmable logic controller (PLC).
In WP5 partners with the lead of ARPA developed the basic design of the Quantitative Precipitation Estimation (QPE) algorithm, and provided the necessary details for the development phase. Partners identified the necessary algorithms and detailed the development environment and system architecture. Based on that, the development, code implementation, integration and testing of the algorithms for real-time QPE was done. The algorithms require radar data in polar format, rain-gauges data of hourly cumulated precipitation and disdrometer data to characterize the DSD (Drop Size Distribution) at a given location.
In WP6 with the lead of ATEKNEA the Consortium implemented the radar control software and the necessary database structure as well as the user center interface with all the required network infrastructure, the servers hardware and software parameters. The different software elements, the QPE parts were integrated together with the radar control and the user center.
Two radar systems were integrated together and installed. One of the units were deployed on top of a building in Hungary at BHE, another mobile platform installed on a trailer was deployed in Austria at PESSL.
In WP 7 due to the limitations of the Frontend part, the partners included another radar source to provide input for the QPE chain and delivered the outputs to the user center, also all the available parts of the system was tested and validated.
During the period the state of the art was continuously monitored, and information was shared within the Consortium.
The participating SMEs were continuously trained about the developed technologies during the Consortium meetings, where the RTD partners presented their technical results.
Due to the delays all partners involved increased effort to sort out the problems and to achieve the most within the project time. Several innovative solution was delivered, that can be used even separately, but the final integrated radar was not delivered.
To exploit the potential of this development and to make sure to add the last bits required for success, the partners agreed to continue the cooperation to achieve the final target.
As a summary, the main results achieved in the project:
• Pioneer prototype C-band RF-fronted modules were delivered and integrated
• A cost-effective conductive cooling modular chassis was designed and manufactured
• The main blocks of an innovative FMCW signal processing radar software was delivered
• A robust radar mechanical system was designed and manufactured with a reliable industrial programmable logic controller
• A novel precipitation algorithm chain (QPE) was delivered
• An online GIS based hidrological service with all the necessary nework infrastructure was delivered
• A radar system was deployed in Hungary and another mobile version was deployed in Austria
• The whole QPE- User center chain was demonstrated with a radar source from Italy
The remaining parts:
• The implementation of the data interfaces to the analog/digital and digital/analog converters in the FPGA firmware
• Testing and corrections of the fully integrated radar system

Potential Impact:
The primary project result is a pre-competitive prototype developed by MARG partners for a single radar and network application. The MARG device is an accurate, real-time and user friendly measurement system for monitoring spatial distribution and intensity of rain in rural and urban scale. Based on the final results, consortium SMEs that cover the supply chain want to take an advantage of early market penetration and outrun any possible competition. According to identified exploitation opportunities, a final business plan was set-up, following a conservative approach. It is envisaged that the SME partners will jointly own the entire Foreground. Other project results will not be directly introduced to the market, although they are assets. The main principles of the exploitation chain was confirmed at the final meeting and at the consortium Skype discussion on 17 February 2015.

The MARG device offer the following benefits to the SMEs who wish to enter the market:

Market niche: The real “buyer power” of MARG is that there are very few Doppler C-band radar on the current market. Compared to complex, integrated and expensive long range meteorological radars, the MARG device provides a cheaper, easy-to-maintain, more mobile and user friendly solution for middle/small sized municipalities and water management authorities.there are currently several available rain-forecasting techniques for very short and very large range. MARG intends to fill in the niche of middle-range rain measurement market, by providing low cost, but trustful solution in a range of 30 km radius for around 30.000-40.000 EUR sales price. With this it is between the simple rain gauges and the expensive long range radars.
For short range, the most of the available devices on the market are rain-gauges that can measure rain used for direct measurement of rainfall intensity near land. Rain gauges measure precipitation only in one single point, so a network application of gauges is necessary to keep deviation less than five percent. In addition to this, to operate an individual rain gauge can cost a significant amount in a month (including 25% of essential maintenance and repair cost). A company who owns and operates a network of gauges the annual costs can be relatively high. Special attention has to be paid for the design and placement of the gauges, otherwise unreliable data will emerge from the measurement, which can provide false data to the end-users.
The other available rain forecasting devices are long range weather radars. They provide much more accurate rain data with resolution from a few hundred meters to few hundred km. However, the price of long range weather radars are not affordable for large part of end-users, especially for SMEs.
Prices of long-range weather radars start from 100.000 EUR and end around 1 million EUR. In addition to the MARG prototype, the SMEs also intend to exploit the data service option of the system by the end of the project. The SMEs will provide the data service for a fee in a different type of packages.
The basic package will include real-time radar images and data combined with GIS, cumulative radar data representing the total amount of precipitation over a selected period, short-term radar forecasts, user documentation and member-only access to the MARG website.
The additional services package will include: forecasts based on model output statistics (short or extended range), a heavy precipitation and storm alert service via SMS/MMS, and email, 24-hour system monitoring and automated notification of system status.
The plans for exploitation related actions were moderated by the Exploitation Manager of the project (PESSL). All concerned partners were in agreement with the initially planned share of Intellectual property so they have not modified that.
The originally proposed exploitation route has been reconsidered. It was important as the partners realized a number of opportunities in the exploitation of the technology beside the target segment originally defined in the grant agreement. The Hungarian SME partners will make further tests, validation with the confirmation of the RTDs and on behalf of the other SMEs. After these activities, the SME partners will prepare and sign a cooperation document about the continuation of the MARG project and make further time for additional development, doing improvement and looking for financial project support. For the market entry the partners consider to go for follow up projects within the Horizon 2020 or Eurostars program. The partners are ready to further develop the prototype together to a successful market-ready product.