DIY lightning Detectors

Hi Everyone!

I began writing this email to ask if anyone had come across a DIY lightning Detector that could be mapped on a PC.  I ended up with a list of great links that I thought I would share with you!

I did find Site Mate.  It’s a FREE program to look at personal Lightning Radar sites (NO hardware required)

Simple lightning detectors – (clicks or flashes a light for each storm strike)

* Schematics for Lightning Detectors
This is the same one that Dimitris just posted.  Here’s his link:

Note that in the “reader’s versions” of the first link, one of the readers used this circuit to send a pulse to the electronic trigger of his digital camera.  This allows him to release the shutter at precisely the same time that a strike hits.  This is a GREAT idea, as anyone who’s sat in the rain with a “bulb” exposure will attest!  😀

* Hobby Boards Lightning Detector ($32.50 assembled) Also available as a kit.

DIY Lightning Radar – (shows location of strikes on map using PC)

Personally, I was looking for DIY hardware that could produce results similar to Strikestar :

“StrikeStar allows multiple, standalone lightning detectors to form a real-time lightning locator network with much better positional accuracy.”

Strikestar is  “exclusively designed for the NexStorm software and Boltek hardware “.  Needless to say, the Boltek hardware ($599) and software ($135+)  package is very expensive.

I found two different DIY systems using two different approaches:

1. Lightning radar MDF (= magnetic-direction-finding system) by Frank Kooiman
2. TOA (= time-of-arrival system) by Egon Wanke

Gerald Iihninger’s lightning detection page gives a good overview of each system.

1. Lightning radar MDF (= magnetic-direction-finding system) by Frank Kooiman

What is Lightning Radar?

Lightning detector system with:
* 2 crossed loop antenna’s tuned to 10 kHz
* 2 simple opAmp amplifiers with gain of 100 x
* a sound card of a 1 GHz PC
* a free program that detects the direction to the source
of the lightning strike with an accuracy of 1 degree.
This program can be used at different sites to calculate
the location of the lightning strike using a trangulation method.

This system was developed as a hobby alternative to  the existing commercial Boltek lightning detector. The  advantages of the lightning radar are the low cost (€40 and up) compared to the Boltek (€350 to €600 depending on the version), the extreme sensitivity of the system, and the possibility of joining the group system  via the internet. Where Boltek detectors can detect lightning up to a range of 500km, the LR (lightning radar) has a range of 2000 to 3000km over land and several thousand km over water (e.g. lightning in Florida, south America).

One disadvantage of the LR is that it is not a plug-and-play system and therefore requires some knowledge of electronics and familiarity with a soldering iron. In practice, this is not really a disadvantage since it means that you learn a lot more about the science of detecting lightning.


Wouldn’t ya know it, but at the end of my research, I found Dimitris’ site!  I guess he’s the resident expert here!  😀

* Dimitris site!
* Amateur Lightning Detector and Radar by Frank kooiman
* Partner Ground Station “Lightning Radar Project”
* Links for LR Stations
* San Antonio, US site w/description of Site Mate (and link to it too)
* Site Mate – FREE program to look at personal Lightning Radar sites

2. TOA (= time-of-arrival system) by Egon Wanke

This system uses a pre-amp circuit board, evaluation board, VLF antenna (ferrite rods or loop ant above), and GPS with one-pulse-per-second (1PPS) output & serial interface

3.  Commercial Systems

* Stormwise – systems and components (ferrite rods, Specialty Directional Antennas)
* Boktek – Stormtracker, LD-250, etc…
* Strikestar – software for Boltek systems

I hope this helps (and inspires) someone else!  Thanks to Dimitris for bringing up the subject!

Jon G.