Introduction

 

The FreeStation initiative uses open source hardware, open source software and open source 3-D printing technology to build and deploy reliable environmental data loggers with the lowest cost and easiest DIY build possible. These are designed to make reliable, detailed and local environmental data more accessible in areas that may have little local financial and technical capacity for the collection of such data.

The FreeSensor initiative designs a variety of open source environmental monitoring sensors from soil moisture probes, through hydrological sensors to wildlife cameras. There are many monitoring initiatives based on open source hardware: FreeStation is  one for those who do not wish to learn electronic engineering or coding as our designs are all plug and play.

As the names imply, the designs are freely available and open source so anyone can build them. Users of these are able to read the data via an SD card (and upload to a web platform) or connect directlly via WiFi or GSM. The FreeStation //Smart: platform at www.policysupport.org/smart provides both raw data and graphical summaries of the data as well as environmentally, agriculturally and hydrologically relevant analytical derivatives. The collected data contributes to the temporal and spatial detail of data available in widely used policysupport.org tools such as WaterWorld and Eco:Actuary. All FreeStation data are also open sourced for all to use.

A variety of stations and sensors are available. The FreeStation Nano includes one of soil moisture, rainfall, temperature and humidity or rainfall sensors. The FreeStation Micro includes for temperature, humidity, solar radiation and rainfall. The FreeStation Meso adds wind speed and wind direction. The FreeStation Macro adds wind driven rainfall, fog and/or soil moisture at 2 depths. FreeSensors currently include wildlife cameras, fog gauges, wind driven rain gauges, soil moisture probes and water level sensors. The cloud connected versions provide online dashboards, SMS alerts and intelligent forecasting capability.

FreeStation, FreeSensor and similar initiatives have the potential to fundamentally change the local information base available to scientists, NGOs, farmers and water resource managers, whilst crowdsourcing real-time, ground-based environmental data globally. Combining these data with the vast satellite-derived archives in WaterWorld and other tools, more sophisticated and locally-relevant policy and decision making support can be provided. If you have a FreeStation and want to upload or analyse your data see Data and Analysis

It costs around USD $800 per month to provide cloud-based servers and storage for your use of these systems.  These costs can only be funded sustainably by those who use the systems since the operational delivery of these systems cannot be funded under research grants and contracts.

If you make educational, research or charitable use of FreeStation please donate what you can (as little as £1) towards the costs of bringing this technology to you.  Do so through PayPal's express payment button below. Note that PayPal will take 1.4% + 20p of your donation.  The rest will go towards FreeStation development. A donation does not provide you with any kind of data or software license or warranty.

The presentation below provides more detail on FreeStation and FreeSensor:

See also our video

Figure 1 Various of the FreeStation weather stations


Figure 2 A FreeStation in agricultural land in Burkina Faso

Figure 3 FreeStation data from the analytical tool