Saturday, July 31, 2010

How do lightning trackers work?

Q How do lightning trackers work? Is this something that a ham could do at home?

A A single-site lightning tracker detects the low frequency radio signals produced by lightning’s electrical discharge. These signals are the cracklings you hear on AM radios when thunderstorms are nearby. Lightning signals travel for hundreds of miles and can be detected by directional low-frequency antennas. Specialized software plots the approximate direction of each strike and analyzes the signal strength to calculate the distance. The results are typically plotted on a map display. More sophisticated systems combine strike data from several receiver sites to create more accurate position plots.

Yes, you can set up a lightning tracker at home. The Boltek
Corporation, among others, makes a lightning tracking system based on a receiver board that plugs into your PC. The directional LF antenna can be installed outdoors or in your attic. The entire system costs about $500. Contact the Boltek Corporation, 2316 Delaware Ave, Buffalo, NY 14216; tel 905-734- 8045; 

The Boltek lightning tracker in action.

From QST October 2000