My lightning week in Delft and Dusseldorf | 2-8 September 2018


Between 2-8 September 2018, I travelled to the Delft University of Technology, Netherlands and University of Dusseldorf, Germany to work on the technical aspects of our lightning sensor technology.

At Severe weather consult, our vision is to have low-cost, solar-powered, lightning detectors installed all over Africa, with the complete infrastructure of uploading data online, analytics and delivery of alerts and information on multiple platforms. 

To build the system, we need to develop not only the sensor network but also validate its data. And so, earlier this year we made our first version of lightning detectors and installed in Musanze Rwanda. But our devices did not work as we expected; the power drained so fast, and the solars did not charge the devices quickly enough. We also had issues with automating the online upload of lightning data, partly because we put most detectors in areas that had low cellular connectivity in Rwanda. At the end of it, only a few strikes were detected and uploaded.  For validation, We had also installed blitzortung detectors, hosted in local institutions. That also did not go very well because of an issue we could not resolve with the server.

So, between 2-8 September I was in Europe to further develop our lightning detectors and work on logistics for validating our data. At Delft University we tested our my detector and realized that the circuitry consumed more power than the solar could supply. We changed the design, and now we will be using more power efficient components and better solar and batteries. I also met Dr. Vi Nguyen of Via Water at Delft.

Meeting with VI of Via Water, Delft
With Validation detectors, I travelled to the University of Düsseldorf, Germany to meet Professor Egon; the man behind Blitz technology ( and His detectors and open source platform enabling people like us, to test many aspects of lightning without having to build a whole system.  He was kind to take us to his high tech lab in his home, 10 km from his university.  us there and most importantly resolve the server issue with the detectors we have installed in Africa

Visit at Prof. Egon Blitz lab

I will be visiting Rwanda again soon, this time we will have fully functional detectors. We will have all the detectors installed and data streaming. It cannot get more fun than this! 

Big thanks to Prof. Egon, TAHMO Netherlands, Via Water.

Karin van der Weerd's picture

Great report Gilbert, thanks! Let us know whether the system now works with functional detectors, once you get back to Rwanda.

Vi Nguyen's picture

Thanks for sharing Gilbert! It was great to catch up with you and to learn about your lightning sensors. I look forward to further updates on your sensors following this productive and technical trip.