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Web Cams

Having the ability to see current weather conditions at a station can be quite valuable, especially when visiting a site with a helicopter. For example, a picture of current site conditions can help cut eliminate wasted trips just to check and see whether or not a station is currently accessible. Since there are a number of stations in the PBO network that are accessible only by helicopter, UNAVCO planned to install StarDot Technologiees NetCamSC webcams in several key locations in Alaska where having imagery from a station would be beneficial to flight operations.

Webcam Background

Though there are several webcams available on the market, the StarDot Technologies NetCamSC unit was selected for these installations due to its proven ruggedness, high image resolution, relative low cost and simplicity of use. Current users of this model of webcam include the USGS, the Alaska Volcano Observatory and the FAA among others. In addition to its proven ruggedness, this particular webcam can be interfaced with an Ethernet connection and is programmed via a web browser making configuration and setup fairly easy. They are also quite versatile and can be programmed with more advanced instructions via a command prompt embedded in the web interface. File transfers are accomplished by configuring the camera to push files to an FTP server at user specified intervals, or the camera can be set up to stream images continuously. One notable disadvantage to this camera is that it cannot be programmed to power on and off autonomously. When they are not taking actively taking an image they run at nearly full power, drawing approximately 6 watts of power continuously. For solar charged DC power systems similar to our remote stations, it is necessary to install an on/off timer in line with power supply to the camera to prevent rapid depletion of battery bank.

Webcam Site Selection Criteria

Before installing a webcam it is important to first evaluate a station based on the following five main criteria.

  1. Is the station in a location were a webcam would benefit helicopter operations?
  2. Does the station have sufficient space to install a webcam, for example hut vs. aluminum enclosure box?
  3. Does the station have sufficient power to reliably power the webcam and other equipment?
  4. Are the data communications at the station reliable enough to handle the additional traffic?
  5. Is there already a nearby webcam that fulfills the same purpose, or is the location of unique value to field operations?

Only after all of these criteria are satisfied should a webcam be installed at a permanent station location, due to the webcam's additional power draw on the station.

Webcam Installation

Initially webcams will only be installed in locations that have fiberglass electronics enclosure huts. This was decided to minimize the amount of modification necessary, since huts are quite easily modified to accommodate the webcam and also provide an adequate weatherproof location without the need for a separate enclosure box. Thus the standard installation instructions and supplies list that follow only pertain to hut installations. This instruction set will be modified in the future, should we decide to install these cameras in locations without a hut as there will likely be additional parts required.

The basic supplies that are needed are:

  1. webcam, such as NetCamSC
  2. DC timer
  3. ethernet cable
  4. ethernet switch
  5. 5.5" diameter pre-cut plexiglass window
  6. 5.5" diameter UV resistant neoprene donut gasket with 5.0" aperture
  7. ten #12 2.0" stainless-steel panhead screws, nuts and washers
  8. two lengths of 2.0" diameter aluminum pipe approximately 3.0' in length
  9. four Holiander 2.0" diameter 90° swivels
  10. 2.0" self-tapping screws

The tools needed are:

  1. DeWalt or other power drill
  2. 4.5" diameter hole saw
  3. silicone sealant

The basic steps for installation are:

Step 1. After a suitable installation location has been found, drill a 4.5" diameter hole in through the wall on the side of the hut or other enclosure through which the webcam will be sighted.

Step 2. Mark out the holes on the hut for the panhead screws and drill them outwith 1/4" drill bit.

Step 3. Attach window and gasket with panhead screws.

Step 4. Further seal the window by running a bead of silicone around its circumference. Additionally, apply a dollop of silicone to each the screws.

Step 5. Assemble support framework for camera.

Step 6. Run power and Ethernet cable and program camera.


Last modified: 2019-12-24  01:47:03  America/Denver