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Mobile Weather Station

About the Challenge
Portable weather station for Air Force Special Operations

Posted By: Air Force Research Lab, Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation
Category: Scientific/Engineering
Skill: Scientific Interest: Climate Partnership With: Air Force Research Lab
Submission Dates: 12 a.m. ET, May 18, 2017 - 5 p.m. ET, Jul 18, 2017 Public Voting Dates: 12 a.m. ET, Jul 19, 2017 - 12 a.m. ET, Jul 22, 2017 Judging Dates: Jul 25, 2017 - Jul 29, 2017 Winners Announced: Aug 01, 2017

Weather data is vital to the U.S. military, impacting missions worldwide. The need to collect atmospheric data in numerous remote areas around the world is never going away. This challenge is to design a man-portable system that is capable of collecting atmospheric data from ground level to 10,000 ft. above ground level (AGL). This data needs to be downloaded to a portable computer that that operator will be carrying with them. This system cannot use an external gas source (gas not present in situ and/or naturally present in operating environment that needs to be carried in such as Helium tanks) to lift the sensor to altitude since these gases are not readily available and expensive.

Technical merit: Proposals will be evaluated based on the system’s ability to meet the most or all of the threshold requirements listed in the Rules section of this challenge.

Jason Goins, Team Lead
How to Enter

The submitted proposal should include the following:

1)  A detailed description of the proposed system, no more than 8 pages (NOTE: All pages count so avoid extra pages like title pages or blanks.) Description must include a section (with drawings) detailing each of the following components:
a) The measurement system and components
b) The mechanism to collect the data at altitude or from the ground with a projected error estimate
c) The file storage and transfer mechanism from the system to the RAOB program on a portable computer and/or a smart phone
d) The power system, with an estimate of overall power requirements
e) An estimate of the overall weight and size of the system when stored and deployed/during sample collection

2) The following drawings of the system should also be included in the proposal, but do not count against the 8 page requirement:

  1. a) A labeled electronic schematic of the entire system in both the stored and operational/sample collection mode, with a parts list

All submissions must be made at

1st place overall winner $15,000.00 Awarded for best overall system
Second place winner $9,000.00 Awarded for the second best solution for overall capability
Single part solution $3,000.00 Awarded for the proposal that best solves either 1) the transport concept (getting the sensor to altitude) or 2) the sensor concept (collecting and transmitting data) better than the 1st and 2nd place winners.

3 Discussions for "Mobile Weather Station"

  • Show Replies [+]
    Gary Gruenert
    What are "man portable" weight limitations? Is this system to be totally stand-alone or can it be integrated with communications and computers that are already with the teams? Can we assume that team members are trained to interpret and make decisions on weather data collected or will software need to be developed to present the collected data so that anyone can interpret it?

    • Reply
      ANSWER: The teams have portable computers and this system will download the data into that. The "man portable" weight limits for this challenge at for the weather data collection system and the system that can get the station up to the 10,000 ft Altitude. The teams are trained to interpret the data so that is not a part of this challenge. No other software is required other than to collect the data and transfer it to a computer.

  • rlee
    A few Solvers have asked about the acceptability of drones as a solution. ANSWER: Drones are acceptable as long as they meet all the requirements. Most commercial drones cannot attain the 10,000 ft AGL requirement while meeting the weight requirements. But if you can design one that meets the stated requirements then it would be great.

Add to the Discussion

No solutions have been posted for this challenge yet.

This is a theoretical challenge that requires only a written proposal to be submitted. This challenge has two parts:

  1. Design a man-portable system that is capable of collecting the atmospheric data of interest.
  2. Deliver that system from ground level to 10,000 ft. above ground level (AGL) without an external gas source.

Since there are 2 parts to the problem, the Seeker wants to encourage those with only 1 part solved, to still submit so there will be an extra award available if someone solves only 1 or 2 above better than anyone else.

The Seeker requires a solution that fulfills the following Technical Requirements:

  1.  Atmospheric data: Must collect the following atmospheric conditions ground to 10K ft AGL. The system must accurately report these conditions in intervals of 100ft[i].
Parameter Operating Range Resolution Accuracy
Pressure 1080 to 600 hPa 0.05 hPa 1.0 hPA
Temperature -35C to +45C 0.05°C ±0.5°C
Humidity 3 to 100% 1.0% ±3.0%
GPS Altitude Surface to 10k ft 1.0 m 5 m
GPS Position[ii] All Lat & Lon .02 arc sec 5 m
GPS Velocity[iii] 0-80 knots 0.5 m/sec 1 m/sec
Wind speed[iv] 0-80 knots 0.5 m/sec 1 m/sec
Wind direction n/a 0.1 degree 1 degree


  1. Data collection: The system must provide the above data to the collection device within 10 minutes of the system being setup or launched (an acceptable solution is if data was stored during collection and retrieved within the time limit) over the interval 0-10,000ft AGL. As stated above, the system must report atmospheric conditions in intervals of 100ft. The data must be downloadable into the RAwinsonde OBservation (RAOB) program.
Sensor Operating Range Resolution Accuracy Time Response[v]
Data Downlink 2400 bits/sec n/a n/a n/a
Transmit No less than 8 NM Line of Sight[vi], omni-directional & downloadable to a device containing the RAOB program[vii] n/a n/a n/a
Sensor Transmit Freq. 400-405.99 MHz n/a n/a n/a

Other parameters:

  1. Portability: The entire system including the transport method, must weigh < 10 lbs. (preferably < 5 lbs.) when carried and have no dimension wider than 2 ft. when stored during man transport.
  2. System must be able to perform data collection for at least 3 days after a charge. The system shall not take more than 8 hours to charge between collections.
  3. The system should cost no more than $50 per sample collection[viii] and no more than $10,000 over the entire life of the system.
  4. This system cannot use an external gas source (gas not present in situ[ix] and/or naturally present in operating environment that needs to be carried in such as Helium tanks) to lift the sensor to altitude since these gases are not readily available and expensive.

The Seeker considers the following objectives as desired, but not required:

  • A system that could be scaled up to reach altitudes of 40,000 ft AGL. (Time response/intervals would increase to less than or equal to every 1,000 ft. This system must provide atmospheric data within 30 minutes of the system being deployed)
  • A system that could autonomously collect the sample and download the data without operator input[x].


[i] More information on radiosonde observations can be found at:

To ensure accuracy, the current system records data every 15ft and smooths that data to report atmospheric conditions at intervals of every 100ft. While averaging between multiple points to report data at 100ft intervals is not required, care should be taken to ensure all measurements at 100ft intervals are accurate. Explanation of how the system ensures this accuracy is encouraged.

[ii] If the system is free-floating during the ascent, wind speed and direction can be calculated from the GPS positions

[iii] If the system is free-floating during the ascent, wind speed and direction can be calculated from the GPS velocity. If wind speed and direction is acquired in a different way, GPS velocity is not required.

[iv] If the wind speed is calculated from the GPS velocity, separate wind speed data is not required.

[v] Time response is also the frequency of measurement, i.e. a time response of ≤1 sec means that measurement must be take less than or equal to every second.

[vi] Line of sight is the atmospheric sensor to ground receiver in Nautical Miles (NM)

[vii] More information can be found at

[viii] The system can be disposable or reusable. If the system is reusable, the cost per use is calculated by the total cost of the system divided by the number of times that it can be deployed.

[ix] An example of a gas “in-situ” would be the ambient atmospheric air

[x] One example of an autonomous process: Operator sets up the system, turns it on, and inputs the collection parameters (i.e. go to 9K ft and come back down). System launches on demand, collects data, and returns to launch site autonomously. Data is downloaded to a device. The operator than runs the data into RAOB and defines characteristics of the atmosphere.

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