The Portable Automatic Weather Station (PAWS)

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What are the PAWS?

The NSW Rural Fire Service maintains and operates a fleet of 25 Portable Automatic Weather Stations or PAWS. These units are deployed for a variety of reasons to monitor weather behavior in strategic locations.

The RFS PAWS can be deployed to monitor the weather at wildfires, hazard reduction burns or large scale incidents where weather conditions may play a role in combating an emergency.

Inputs and Data

Each PAWS station has a number of sensory inputs and can monitor:

  • Temperature
  • Relative Humidity
  • Sunlight (Solar radiation)
  • Precipitation and Rainfall
  • Wind speed and direction x 2
  • GPS location and data

The Wind Speed and Direction Sensors are placed at different heights above the ground – one at 3 meters and one 10 meters. The lower sensor is a Cup Anemometer, which measures the rotation of a “windmill” and converts the data into wind speed. The 10-meter sensor is an Ultrasonic Wind Sensor, which measures wind speed and direction by using an ultrasonic pulse of sound emitted from the sensors.

The PAWS System showing its 2 Wind Speed and Direction Sensors

The PAWS unit contains a small computer which processes the data and transmits it to the NSW RFS HQ on 10-second intervals using the Telstra 3G network. 10-second transmission intervals allow the data to average out the wind speed, to avoid measuring sudden gusts as a constant. The units also have a satellite connection available in case the location they’re set up at has poor phone reception.

The individual stations fit into two bags (1 for the main body, 1 for the sensors), and based in Sydney, can be transported anywhere in the state whenever needed.

The PAWS unit bagged and ready to go.

A big thanks to William Hines for the information and photos. If you’ve used one of those deployed stations, we’d love to hear from you. Does your service run something similar? Get in touch with us.

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I founded Flashover to promote Australian Firefighting. I've been a volunteer and a paid firefighter but now I spend my time chasing up leads, promoting good mental health and making the occasional Grumpy Firecom comic!

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