There are many instances where Phidgets might get stuck outdoors: weather stations, RC vehicles (quadcopters, underwater vehicles, robots, etc), outdoor installations, and applications we haven’t imagined yet. Some specific examples of Phidgets in the outdoors are a giant drum machine, a sky temperature scanner and precision agricultural monitors.
In this series, we explore how to protect Phidgets from outdoor conditions, like rain and dust. In this final post of the series, we look at the Phidgets that can’t be weatherproofed. These are the sensors we’ve only touched on briefly, or haven’t mentioned at all. These sensors really shouldn’t be left outside, as they can’t be protected from the elements by any of the methods suggested already.
That said, you can still use them outdoors, as long as you don’t leave them there. Some customers have designed portable systems that are easy to relocate, allowing them to take their systems outdoors to perform measurements as needed.
There aren’t very many sensors left, but here are some you might want to watch for:
The Sonar Sensor
The 1128 Maxbotics EZ-1 Sonar Sensor that Phidgets sells is no good when outside for extended periods of time. However, Maxbotics sells waterproof sonar sensors that you can install in your outdoor applications.
The 1045 Temperature Sensor IR works by reading temperature of the specific area that is in the field of view, so most filters don’t work, or skew the readings. The best way to use the sensor is to keep the sensor exposed, pointed at what you’re monitoring. As discussed in Weatherproofing Infrared Phidgets, a fresnel filter will work, but it still requires calibration after installed. In environments with moderate weather, you can use the acrylic enclosure sold by Phidgets or build your own shield to protect it.
Knobs and Sliders
The 1106 Force Sensor, 1109 Rotation Sensor, 1112 Slider and 1113 Mini Joy Stick Sensor cannot be completely sealed off from the environment without inhibiting their functionality. The 1116 Multi-turn Rotation Sensor can provide an alternative to the other rotation sensor by using its nut and some sealant around the hole in the enclosure.
There are lots of creative ways to use Phidgets outdoors, and even though the Phidgets mentioned in this post are impossible to weatherproof, doesn’t mean they can’t ever be used outside, they just can’t stay there. The key is to know your environment and protect the Phidgets accordingly. Electronics and water are always a bad combination and dust can cause damage over the long term. You’ll also want to check operating temperatures and ensure you’re not operating the Phidgets outside of that range. Working with these limitations, it’s not that hard to create anything from a temporary outdoor sensing system to a lasting outdoor installation.
This series has now covered most of the Phidgets that we sell. If you didn’t catch the earlier parts of the series, you can start from the beginning with Selecting the Right Connector and Enclosure or browse them all using the weatherproofing tag. If there’s something you didn’t see, please leave a comment.