Visibility and Present Weather Sensor VPF-730

The VPF-730 Visibility sensor provides accurate visibility and present weather measurement in a compact and robust package, making it well suited to both general and offshore aviation applications
Visibility and Present Weather Sensor VPF-730
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The VPF-730 Visibility sensor provides accurate visibility and present weather measurement in a compact and robust package, making it well suited to both general and offshore aviation applications.

Every aspect of the sensor’s design is focussed on measurement accuracy, reliability and durability. The open design of the sensor head allows the free passage of air for greater measurement accuracy whilst the hard coat anodised dip brazed construction gives superb corrosion resistance, which is especially important in offshore applications.

The unique backscatter receiver gives the VPF-730 unparalleled abilities in distinguishing frozen from liquid precipitation, a key factor when determining the safety of aircraft operations. Present weather conditions are reported using WMO table 4680 codes to simplify system integration and compliance. An optional interface to the ALS-2 Ambient Light Sensor makes the VPF-730 suited for use in aviation applications where Runway Visual Range (RVR) information is required in addition to METAR data.

The VPF-730 can be AC mains or low voltage DC powered and hood heaters are available for use in areas prone to snow.

  • 15 WMO Table 4680 present weather codes
  • Reliable measurement in all weather conditions
  • Highly corrosion resistant hard coat anodised finish
  • Window contamination monitoring and compensation
  • Unaffected by obstacle warning lights
  • Easy integration of Biral ALS-2 Ambient Light Sensor
  • Mains or DC powered
  • 10m to 99.99km measurement range

Learn more about our VPF sensors on YouTube

Technical Description

The VPF-730

Like all VPF series sensors the VPF-730 enclosure is constructed from dip-brazed aluminium with a hard coat anodised finish. This combination results in a sensor that offers superb abrasion and corrosion resistance. It is not unusual for VPF series sensor to be still operating after 20 years’ service in harsh environments.

The 45° forward scatter angle and 850nm infrared light source used by the VPF-730 provide the best possible visibility measurement accuracy in all weather conditions. Visibility is output as Meteorological Optical Range (MOR) whilst World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) Table 4680 codes are used to report present weather. The backscatter receiver, unique to Biral present weather sensors, gives the VPF-730 the ability to discriminate between liquid and frozen precipitation with exceptional accuracy. Liquid precipitation scatters very little of the transmitted light towards the backscatter receiver, whilst frozen precipitation, be it ice pellets, hail or snow, scatters a significant amount in this direction. By observing the ratio of forward to backscatter for each precipitation particle the VPF-730 provides a much more accurate assessment of present weather than competitors’ sensors which rely on measuring the size and velocity of particles for classification. The reliance on size and velocity measurements for the determination of precipitation type is error prone as the velocity measurement is dependent on the local wind speed.

In common with all Biral visibility and present weather sensors the VPF-730 uses 2kHz modulation of the light source combined with narrow pass band optical filters and synchronous detection at the receiver to ensure the measurement is not affected by bright or flashing lights. This design also ensures the sensor accurately reports visibility during precipitation. The horizontal hood design eliminates the problems caused by surface reflections that are a source of error in sensors employing look down hood geometries.

The optical windows of the sensor are fitted with low power heaters to prevent the formation of condensation. Window contamination monitoring and compensation allows the visibility output to maintain its accuracy even as dirt builds up on the optical surfaces. The sensor reports the window contamination in the output message using two stages of warning flags allowing cleaning to take place in a convenient manner.

Communication with the sensor is over a RS232 serial data link; RS422 or RS485 communications are optionally available. ASCII encoded data is used and the sensor can operate in either a polled or broadcast modes. The data message can include a time stamp from the internal real time clock in addition to the standard visibility and self-test information.

The VPF-730 is available in both low voltage DC and mains AC power configurations. Optional hood heaters are available for use in environments where blowing snow may block the optical windows. The sensor is supplied with cables for connection to the sensor using circular connectors or with fixed cables through plastic cable glands. The standard length of all cables is 6m; other lengths are available on request.

The ALS-2 ambient light sensor can be connected directly to the sensor using an optional interface. The ALS-2 takes its power form the VPF-730 and the light sensor output is integrated into the VPF-730 data message.

The VPF-730 is a single lightweight unit that can be easily transported and installed by one person. It is designed for use in all weather conditions and has a wide operating temperature.


Visibility, MOR, EXCO and TEXCO
Present weather. 15 WMO Table 4680 Codes
Precipitation intensity and accumulated amount
RS232, Optional RS422/RS485
Measurement Principle
Forward scatter 45°
Measurement Error
2% at 2,000m
Sensor Power
12 V DC, 24V DC, 120 V AC or 240 V AC (6W Approx)
Hood Heating Power
Window heating and contamination monitoring
Operating Temperature
-50°C to 60°C
Operating Humidity
0 – 100% RH
Protection rating
Weight (Sensor Head)
5.6kg DC: 6.8kg AC


Sales & Support

Contact Biral for more information

To find out more about this instrument or to discuss your application requirements please do not hesitate to contact Biral.

After Sales Support

Biral offers free advice and technical support for the lifetime of the instruments we sell. Once you have purchased the unit you can always contact us for help using the links on our Service Support page.

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