Rural fire Remote tank Monitoring

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A few years past we put together a custom board that would accept an Electron and allow us to monitor Rural fire water tanks out in the middle of nowhere via the Cell network.

This version has a Solar Lipo battery charger, a 24v boost DC-DC converter, FRAM memory storage, a Pressure temp sensor, Watchdog, optional Lora, accelerometer and a current sensor to monitor 4-20ma type sensors.
It’s a great little unit, but then the Particle mesh products came to market, and we wanted to update a few things.
We thought to ourselves, let’s modulize. Lets put all the various parts onto thier own feather, so that way when a customer wants a particular custom setup, we can quickly and easily swap things out and change things.
So we came up with the new and improved Monitoring system based on the featherwing ethos.

What you see here is a fully loaded 8 slot Feather main board with various feathers either designed in-house or sourced from external companies.
From top to bottom we have the following

  1. Boron, Argon or Xenon.
  2. Sensor board with FRAM, Accelerometer, BM280 pressure sensor and option Fuel Cell monitor.
  3. 12/24v Boost converter with dual Current sensor.
  4. RTC board to overcome the Missing Deep sleep waking capability of the newer Mesh products.
  5. Lora board. Allows extended range and alternative backup communication.
  6. Solar Lipo charger with current sensors. Can take a 10W 21v panel and charge a standard 3.7v cell.
  7. A weather station feather adapter to allow an anemometer, wind direction and rain gauge to be added.
  8. A 5v Boost converter adapter (from Polulo) with 4 serial (I2C or RS232) with each plug power controllable so that you can share multiple devices on a single RS232 line or same I2C address. (Grove version not shown).
  9. Watchdog and Interrupt, Enable controller. This is used in a special socket on the main board that allows each slot to have it’s own interrupt using the NC pin, and each EN to be controllable.

The Weather station, Lora and Grove board are currently just showing off the expand-ability and are not yet implemented in the current firmware, but the rest is very much working nicely together.

We’ve added a Fuelcell to the sensor board that is identical to the one supplied on the Boron so when we have either a Argon or Xenon plugged in, we can get the same readings of battery capacity as when we have a Boron. We also have instantaneous current usage from both the solar panel and battery.

We communicate with particle Cloud which a Node-Red server connects and masterminds the boards and acts as a Gateway to a thingboard front end which collates and shows all the status and data of each unit out in the field.

The node red flow allow two way communication and data manipulation between Thingsboard and the Particle device.

And things board page showing the status of one tank.

You can find more info on our Website


Interesting update! I always tend towards modular designs as well. Can you comment on the difference in cost from the custom, single-use platform to the modular platform? I guess there is the added expense of the 9-slot featherwing carrier board as well as manufacturing all the various featherwings. How did you go about considering/weighing the expanded functionality, the increased board size and cost?


There is an increase cost in the modular design, but it not the additional PCBs (or not very much more) but actually the increase is all the additional connectors.
We now have to potentially cater for 36 new through hole items which is labor intensive, I think maybe the next version we’ll see about SMD type connectors and/or a way of wave soldering.
The 9 slot feather carrier is twice as long as the original but then it has 3 additional slots of expand ability and we do have a 6 slot version that is only slightly bigger. As for size, the case’s we have can easily fit this new board with room to spare. As it has to have a 10W solar panel, we have plenty of wriggle room.




Hi jonnyfp,

Great work! I’m also a big fan of the adafruit feather system. Would you be willing to share some of your work? I’d like to know more about the 6. Solar Lipo charger and 9. watchdog wing. Could you provide schematics and pcb files?

Thanks in advance


The schematics and PCB files are not ready for general release, need to write them up and add the various Opensource stuff, code and other stuff for them.
The solar Lipo Re charger is similar to the Sparkfun sunny buddy, and just has two INA current sensors on the inputs.
The Watchdog board is based on a Max6369 Watchdog chip.

Once we have some more available bandwidth we’ll start publishing each feather.


Thanks for the update. I got a sunny buddy at home too. If it comes in the shape of a feather that’s even better!