An upgrade of the Department of Primary Industry and Regional Development’s (DPIRD) automated weather station network will commence next month. DPIRD’s network of 170 automatic weather stations and radars provide important weather data to assist growers and regional communities make more-informed decisions. The department’s eConnect+ project manager Darren Gibbon said the project involved upgrading weather stations from 3G to a 4G ‘sub-band’, offering low power consumption and covering wide areas – making it ideal for WA’s regions. WA-based company Unidata has been awarded the contract to assist with the rollout.
Photo caption: (l-r) Unidata senior communications engineer Clint Barnes and general manager Matt Saunders with the Department of Primary Industry and Regional Development’s senior technical officer Phil George, eConnect+ project manager Darren Gibbon and research officer Ian Foster, at a weather station in Floreat.
“This work will ensure DPIRD’s network of weather stations continues to provide ongoing near real-time weather information across WA,” Mr Gibbon said. “After Telstra announced the discontinuation of its 3G network, DPIRD undertook an extensive evaluation of new 4G equipment to ensure appropriate upgrades to enable continued service delivery from its State-wide weather network. “Most of DPIRD’s existing weather stations run on 3G and it is vital the upgrades are completed prior to June 2024. “The technology is known as CatM-1, a form of Low Power Wide Area Network or LPWAN technology that provides 4G connectivity.”
DPIRD station data includes air temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind speed and direction, with most stations also measuring incoming solar radiation to calculate evaporation. “Our network of automated weather stations and radars are important tools for growers and regional communities, as they provide timely, relevant and local weather data,” Mr Gibbon said. Mr Gibbon said the 4G rollout will start in July, with estimated completion by the end of the year. “As each weather station is upgraded, we anticipate an outage of approximately an hour at that site, as old equipment is removed, the new hardware installed and existing sensor reconnected,” he said. Unidata General Manager Matt Saunders said Unidata would be manufacturing the equipment at its factory in O’Connor. More information on DPIRD’s weather station network is available from weather.agric.wa.gov.au
In May this year, the 23rd Australian Hydrographers Conference was held in Penrith NSW at the NSW Rugby League Penrith Panthers Conference Facility. The conference was the first conference post-Covid. The last conference was held in Canberra in 2019. It is on the train line on the way to the Blue Mountains, a very picturesque part of Australia.
Unidata was the Platinum sponsor for the event, and this was done to show the AHA that we are a committed member, and we wanted to show our support to the AHA at the first major conference post-Covid. Unidata Staff Kevin Chung and Matt Saunders attended and presented at the conference, and our NIWA colleagues Graham Elley and Evan Baddock also attended. We were provided with presentations from key government and Industry people, including BOM and The Climate Change Research Centre. A key message from these researchers was that while climate change is real and upon us, we must remember that the extreme weather events we have experienced lately are more related to weather than climate.
Another clear message from the conference was that while traditional instruments, such as shaft encoders and ultrasonic and radar instruments, continue to measure streams and rivers, a fast-growing method to measure rivers is by using video analysis of the surface of the water in rivers. This new method is called Image Velocimetry. Unidata is now involved with some pilot programs to investigate this new method, which requires a high bandwidth from measuring sites for live video to be transferred to a central computer for analysis.
We had a conference dinner at the Penrith Panthers Stadium, and we got to understand the game of Rugby League a little more.
Unidata exhibited and presented at the Australian Groundwater Conference in Perth in November 2022. This was the first face-to-face conference since COVID-19 and was very well attended by customers all around Australia. It was held in the Perth Exhibition Centre.We noted many mining and oil and gas customers seeking to monitor groundwater for mine sites and oil fields.
Kevin Chung and Matt Saunders attended and presented at this conference, with a focus on groundwater monitoring applications.
Cheryl joined us at Christmas last year to assist with Finance and Accounting in the lead-up to Elena O’Neill’s retirement. Cheryl lives in Mandurah and likes cars. She drives her very nice Mercedes to work on the Kwinana freeway every day, the classiest car we have ever had in our car park. In her spare time, you will find her with a drill or a paintbrush in hand – no piece of furniture is off-limits. Cheryl has a granddaughter (aka Smiling Assassin) who takes a lot of her time and tests her patience level.
Unidata has been manufacturing and supplying the Unidata Automatic and Semi-Automatic Evaporation systems for many years. This year, we updated this important system, replacing the older model Unidata Micro logger with the recently released 3004N Neon Remote Logger. We also refreshed all other components’ wiring and documentation. The new system is easier to prepare for installation, and it allows for all active components to be inside one main enclosure. It is also easier to install, and it now has the Neon telemetry function included as one package. Evaporation Systems are used by many companies, especially mining companies, to determine the evaporation profile of their mine sites and to maintain regulatory approvals for the operation of mines and industrial plants. They are also used for scientific research.
The rate of evaporation is defined as the amount of water evaporated from a unit surface area per unit of time. This parameter is an important indicator of the need for water in agricultural areas and also for hydrologists to monitor the water balance of an area. Measuring the level of evaporation is especially important in mine sites to determine the rate of improvement in water quality. All Unidata’s evaporation systems measure how much water evaporates from a US Class A evaporation pan by measuring the water level in an adjoining still well. In agriculture, people rather talk of evapotranspiration, meaning the combined evaporation of the soil and the transpiration of plants.