The uses for small single board computers is endless. In a previous blog we detailed how we set up a Banana Pi BPI-M2 for an aircraft monitoring station. In this blog we will detail our use of the Banana Pi into a weather station installation.
I have been running a weather station on my home for many years and I have been sharing my weather data with Weather Underground and the Civilian Weather Observer Program. I also send a short weather observation report every 15 minutes via Twitter. Up until this project I was using a full computer system to run the needed software. This required that I leave a computer running 24 hour a day consuming power. I had switched to a netbook for this task, but it still took more power that was really needed for the task.
“Chandler AZ Weather @KOA789 Aug 16
@ 4:00 PM MST: Temp:110.2F, Wind:NW@ 3 mph, Baro:29.620″ & Falling, Hum:21%, Rain:0.00″, Hi:110.7F @ 3:53 PM, Lo:88.9F @ 5:58 AM”
Enter the Banana Pi BPI-M2 and Cumulus MX. Cumulus MX is a comprehensive weather monitoring program from SandaySoft in the UK. Cumulus MX can run on several operating systems and I chose Raspbian since I use it with the ADS-B aircraft system I recently installed.
My weather station is the Vantage Vue from Davis, but there as numerous weather stations on the market today that can communicate with computers and Cumulus MX will talk to many of them. The Vantage Vue’s sensor unit is mounted about 20 feet above ground on my amateur radio tower in my back yard and it uses a wireless connection to the display console inside the house. Davis sells a module that communicates with a computer over a USB port (There is also a less expensive clone of this device out there too.)
The Banana PI connects to the weather station via the USB port and you can either connect a monitor, keyboard and mouse up to the BPI-M2 or connect to it from a browser on any other computer on your internal network (that is my chosen connection here). Another possibility that I haven’t explored yet is the Banana Pi 7in LCD Monitor/Touchpanel for the display and control.
Setup is pretty straightforward with the help of the great user community on the SandaySoft forums. Raspbian requires the use of Mono software package, but it is easily installed and setup. Cumulus MX runs from the command line and there are no graphics to the base program as it just acts as a web server. All communications and configuration are done from a browser.
The weather station console and Banana PI sit on an end table in my living room for easy viewing of the station and the Banana Pi connects to the internet through its built in WiFi interface. I have considered connecting the Banana Pi to and extra HDMI port on my living room LCD TV and using a wireless keyboard and mouse to access the system, but that could be the subject of a future blog post.
The Banana PI BPI-M2 sails along at about 1-2% CPU usage in normal operation and runs only about 4-5% when doing larger Cumulus MX tasks. In the future I may try adding other software to this installation, there are a few Network Attached Storage programs available that might co-exist with Cumulus that could free up more resources on my home network.
The needed items are as follows:
- Banana Pi BPI-M2 computer board
- The Raspbian operating System
- Cumulus MX Software
- Supported Weather Station with USB connection
- 5 Volt @ 2 Amp power supply (Either micro USB or one with a 4.0×1.7mm barrel connector.
- 4GB or larger Micro SD Card
- Internet Connection (for sending to CWOP & Weather Underground & Twitter)
We are looking into some other applications using the Banana Pi, Servo Motors and Arduino compatible boards related to home automation/security like security camera, lawn sprinkler control, thermostat control/automation, internet radio, home audio/video control and photo storage.