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General Description

The Automated Radiosonde Launcher (ARL) is a low cost system that permits unattended upper air observations. It is a robust and fault-tolerant system that automates radiosonde observations. It is compatible with a variety of commercial radiosondes. The ARL is ideal for remote locations, manpower limited operations, and mobile requirements.

The ARL takes a manually intensive task and reduces it to a periodic maintenance routine. Because the it automates every step in the launch process personnel are free to perform more important value-added tasks, and human errors are eliminated.

Model ARL-9000: The fixed-base system processes up to 8 upper air observations automatically. The ARL reduces manpower costs, while increasing data availability.

Model ARL-9001: The trailer-mounted mobile system processes up to 8 upper air observations automatically.

Once loaded, the ARL system automatically:

powers up a radiosonde

checks the RF link

starts data acquisition

performs a verification of the radiosonde temperature and humidity signals

acquires real time wind, temperature and dew point data from a Model PTU-2000 thermohygrometer

inflates a balloon and verifies inflation

releases the balloon

verifies the payload is successfully away

continuously captures data for flight duration

transfers data to a central data archive

returns to idle state and prepares for next launch


ARL-9001 Mobile version of the Automated Radiosonde Launcher


LORAN-C and GPS wind-finding options

Operator safety: operators only need visit the system occasionally to load expendables, avoiding hazardous weather

Can be automated for preset release times or conveniently remote-controlled via the Internet to capture rapidly changing weather events

Supports XDR-928 GPS digital radiosondes


Numerical Weather Prediction: Input for weather forecast models

Operational Weather: Permanent upper air observing system for commercial and military applications. Mobile and tactical options available.

Remote Sensing: Ground truth validation for calibration of satellite platforms

Scientific Research: Global warming and climate change studies

Field Experiments: ARL-9001 mobile version is ideal for storm-chasing/research

Space/physical footprint-limited locations

Labor Reduction: Replacement of human operators at remote or hostile locations

Software Architecture

The system software runs on a core CPU running YESDAQ, a mySQL-based database with ODBC connectivity. The software manages ground support equipment and handles paper tapes. Because it provides web access to upper air data and system status, it can be remotely controlled. For example, with the click of a mouse, remote users can optionally control the release of a balloon for compliance with ATC/controlled airspace regulations. The software architecture permits hundreds of remote ARL stations to be centrally controlled.

Schedule-driven Launch Control Engine

Flight Database stores contiguous data sets

Web server component for display interface

Maintenance logs coordinate loading and system maintenance

Hardware Features/Installation

Radiosondes and expendables including helium gas, batteries and up to 600g balloons are loaded into the system. Each "channel" holds a single radiosonde in a launch carrier that manages the balloon inflation process and battery wetting. Expendables can be stored on or off site.

Flight Data Facility

At the center of the system is the Auto Launcher Executive (ALEX) a TCP/IP based remote control MS-Windows application that buffers you from the control language the core embedded controller uses to talk to the METHUB Met Data Receiver. Once released, the METHUB receives and stores in-flight data. Once stored, radiosonde data is displayed in web browser locally on a PC or workstation in a variety of meteorological formats. Skew-T charts, linear Pressure, Temperature, Humidity (PTU) or text displays are supported.


Example of Skew-T chart from a GPS wind finding radiosonde


Example of web-based Linear PTU radiosonde data

Example of text data window from a radiosonde

Data Interfaces

Managing a network of upper air sites for an extended period of time produces a sizable data repository. Upper air data are collected and stored for later display or further analysis in YESDAQ, a mySQL-based open source relational database supporting ODBC, JDBC, Perl and native mySQL driver connectivity. System profiles are stored permitting site quality control.

ARL Launch Sequence Diagram

Mechanical Interface

Development History

The ARL was developed in partnership with the US Dept of Energy and NOAA.


Operating Temperature

-40 C to +44 C

Weight (ARL-9000)

2200 lbs. (not including helium tanks)

Power Requirements

110/220 Vac, 50/60 Hz, 15A heater on, 1A heater off

Launch Wind Speed Limits

45 mph (<100 MPH storage with tiedowns)



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This page was last updated on Monday, September 11, 2006 .