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Consumer Electronics Lightning Strike Triangulation

Use widely available consumer products to identify & track thunderstorms & individual lightning strikes.
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Consumer products with video and audio recording capability are now widespread. The obvious candidates for this idea are video doorbells, but that isn't a category. Dashcams and surveillance cameras would work and the sheer numbers of cell phones mean that someone will have one exposed to the sky at any given moment.

The idea is simple, based on the simple fact that the sound of thunder takes 5 seconds longer per mile to reach a device than the flash of lightning. In our scenario, a selection of video doorbells scattered around a neighborhood detect a flash of light. Some will not, they're pointed the wrong way, but enough will, and the timing can be noted. Lightning is extremely broad spectrum & high signal/noise as light goes, so it will be easy to spot. Then, thunder arrives, again, thunder is pretty easy to spot as a big broad low frequency rumble. Now we plot the light-sound gaps and draw virtual circles for the thunder distance. Where the circles overlap, is the approximate location of the lightning strike.

This dataset can be fed back to whatever evilcorp is running the phone/security camera/doorbell network and probably used to sell non-conductive umbrellas or some such. More usefully, it can generate fine detail on storm movements and potential fire locations in dry regions.

bs0u0155, Jun 09 2021

Lightning Myths: Lightning always strikes the tallest object https://stormhighwa...est_object_myth.php
[a1, Jun 13 2021]

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       //This dataset can be fed back to whatever evilcorp is running the phone/security camera/doorbell network and probably used to sell non-conductive umbrellas//   

       So, it's an evilcorp, so wouldn't it make more sense to make this the first stop instead of the doorbell thing, but with conductive umbrellas, get your strike data directly rather than extrapolating from triangulation of the flash.   

       Market them as umbrella phones to help explain the built in satnav & large whip aerial (lightning rod) on top.   

       You can sell the nonconductive ones after.
Skewed, Jun 09 2021
  

       // this has been done for years //   

       But blitzortung requires purpose-designed lightning detectors. I read bs0u0155's idea as leveraging a broader base of consumer electronic devices, which is new.   

       I have a similar idea that I haven't posted yet. Not for lightning detection but something else using crowd-sourced data from video doorbells and other consumer grade security cameras.
a1, Jun 09 2021
  

       //but with conductive umbrellas, get your strike data directly rather than extrapolating from triangulation of the flash.//   

       What are we using as a marker for the lightning strike on the phonebrella? Stops pinging the nearest tower? That could just be inside a big building. Bill non-payment? There's a long lead time on that. You'd have to make an electronic device that can squeal "AAAGH! I've been struck by lightning" to the phone network before it's destroyed by the lightning. Which is a challenge to say the least.   

       //this has been done for years//   

       Ha, that's interesting, but it isn't the same thing. It's just picking VLF radio* spikes with a dedicated bit of hardware. The trouble is, there aren't many of them. There's millions of the doorbells. In addition, the thunder- lightning gap gives you an internally calibrated distance. With just the lightning and a real time clock, you're subject to possible errors - you need pretty sharp timing equipment to spot differences at light speed. Sound however, is slow enough to be useful as a marker even with consumer-grade equipment.   

       * You can consider lightning as a rather large spark-gap radio transmitter. Interestingly, the FCC regulates radio transmission and spark gap transmitter operation is a felony in the US, so God's in a lot of legal trouble, which might explain the conspicuous absence.
bs0u0155, Jun 09 2021
  

       //Stops pinging the nearest tower?//   

       Yep, cross referencing to the billing company can discount disconnections & a fresh signal after leaving a building would result in a previous strike record being deleted, consider it a work in progress, we'll find ways around false positives as they crop up.
Skewed, Jun 09 2021
  

       //Incidentally its fun to watch Blitzortung when there's a storm as the display shows the strikes before the sound arrives so you can wait for the boom from strikes that you don't happen to see.//   

       So if there's an electrical storm, you have your head down looking at a radio lightning detector?   

       //I guess the engineer in me//   

       Ah. This goes somewhat toward an explanation. Personally, I like to use the high-resolution visual detection system mounted in the front of my head, that also works at the speed of light so I can know about incoming thunder.   

       What we need is a way of detecting the direction of a lightning strike before it happens. It's annoying if you miss lightning by looking the wrong way or only see a reflection.
bs0u0155, Jun 11 2021
  

       //What we need is a way of detecting the direction of a lightning strike//   

       Just make them happen where you want them, we've been doing that for years, it's called a lightning rod, you just need to make sure your personal erection is the biggest in town & there aren't any nearby natural features that will supersede it & then you always know where it's going to strike.   

       We can probably do something about when as well if we really want but it's likely to leave you're home looking like something Igor threw together for the Baron.
Skewed, Jun 13 2021
  

       [skewed], that’s not true. While lightning will *usually* strike the highest point, it’s not always the case. See lightning myths <link>. On the plus side, you did get to say erection.
a1, Jun 13 2021
  

       //See lightning myths//   

       I'm well aware it's not the 'highest point' but the path of least resistance, so I'll pass on reading about what I already know thanks, & that can be engineered very effectively if you know what you're doing & pretty effectively even when you don't really know what you're doing (such as with the copper lightning rods we've likely used for centuries as already mentioned).   

       //On the plus side, you did get to say erection//   

       I did didn't I, it's almost like it's the only reason I anno'd ;)
Skewed, Jun 13 2021
  


 

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