New VLF Radio Antenna Installed

About me:
Mitch Cox

Last week, MSc student Carson McAfee finished installing a Very Low Frequency (VLF) antenna on the roof of the Electrical Engineering building for research purposes. This receiver is accessible over the network via a fibre optic cable to download the recorded data and access the board configuration via SSH or FTP. VLF research is interesting for lightning geolocation, for example. More information can be found on the Stanford VLF Group page and info on the schools lightning research efforts can be found on their page.

The newly formed VLF Interest Group congregated on the roof to admire the views and of course, take photos of the setup! 

Carson started the design whilst working in Antarctica and built all the required components himself using the school's CNC machine to "etch" the circuit boards and some red nailpolish to finish of the raw copper! The system is able to receive radio frequencies in the VLF band from 300 Hz up to approximately 20 kHz, which happens to be the limit of the Wandboard  (which is an ARM Cortex-A9 based single board computer) audio input. No frequency down-conversion is required so the complexity of the system is minimal.

Some interesting future projects for undergraduate and postgraduate students await! The next step is to install a power monitoring system to report the solar panel generation and the system power consumption as well as the 100 Ah deep cycle battery state of charge. A proper MPPT charger will also go a long way to maintaining the system on cloudy days and to keep the battery healthy.


And inside the box visible at the base of the tower: