BTD Series Thunderstorm Detectors FAQs

I have a problem with my sensor, where can I get help and advice?

If you have a technical problem with your sensor, please contact the Biral service department.

I can't find the user manual for my sensor, can I get another one?
Yes, of course. All of our user manuals are available for download in pdf format from the Biral website (click here).
How many different types of lightning detector does Biral manufacture?
There are three different lightning detection sensors in the Biral range; BTD-200, BTD-300 & BTD-350. The latter two are collectively referred to as BTD-3X0 due to their similarities.
What types of lightning will it detect (and range)?
All of Biral’s BTD series sensors are able to detect all types of lightning (i.e. intra-cloud, cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-ground). The BTD-200 has a working range of 35km (22mi) whilst the BTD-3X0 sensors have a range of 83km (51mi)
Can I adjust the warning ranges?
Yes, each BTD sensor has adjustable ranges. The BTD-200 has three ranges (Overhead, Vicinity & Distant) whilst the BTD-3X0 sensors have four ranges (Overhead, Vicinity, Near Distant & Far Distant).
Can I have a Google earth image of my area overlaid with the lightning data?
Yes for the BTD-200, a map can be set up in the accompanying Lightning Works software. It is not possible to overlay a map using the software accompanying the BTD-3X0 sensors.
Can I distinguish between different types of lightning activity (cloud to cloud / cloud to ground)?
Although the BTD sensors detect these different types of lightning it is not currently possible to differentiate between them. This is a feature that has been requested before and we are currently investigating what can be done to achieve it.
Can I write my own display software?
Yes, of course. All of the information required to create your own displays are contained in the relevant user manuals which are downloadable from the Biral website (click here). You should bear in mind that the Biral display software also logs and stores the data so you will have to accommodate that function as well.
Do I have to use Biral’s BTD software?
Not at all, but the sensors do rely on some form of software and display being present, at least for initial sensor configuration during installation. All of the information required to create your own displays are contained in the relevant user manuals which are manuals which are downloadable from the Biral website (click here). In addition to the software for displaying lightning information you will also need to log and store the data from the BTD.
Can I adjust the ranges in different types of measurement (metric/nautical)?
Yes, the choices available for distance measurement units are kilometres (km) or Nautical miles (nmi)
Can I see the GUI on multiple displays?
The BTD-3X0 display software can only be installed on one computer with a single display but the BTD-200 is designed to have the display software installed on several computers at the same time but with a limit of five concurrent users.
Can I change between Ethernet and RS422 Communications?
Output from the BTD-200 is RS422 only, but the BTD-3X0 sensors are equipped with both RS422 and Ethernet outputs and can be switched between them. The process for doing this is explained in Section 3.6.4 of the user manual, which can be downloaded from the Biral website (click here). Assistance is also available from the Biral service department.

What height should I mount the sensor?
There is a general misconception that a lightning detector needs to be mounted high up. Indeed, this is generally not a good solution as it makes the sensor itself more likely to be struck by lightning. For the BTD-200 we recommend it is mounted on top of a 1.5m high pole or on a wall bracket so that the sensor is above the top of the wall. The BTD-3X0 sensors are supplied with a mounting pole of the correct length and this should be securely fixed to a foundation at ground level. The relevant user manuals have a section on choosing a suitable installation site and the obstructions that should be avoided. Assistance is also available from the Biral service department.

Can I use a fixed IP address?
This does not apply to the BTD-200 as its output is always RS422 serial. Both of the BTD-3X0 sensors can be assigned a fixed IP address but this requires some changes to the sensor setup. These changes are explained in detail in the user manual which can be downloaded from the Biral website (click here). Assistance is also available from the Biral service department.

The antenna are covered in bird droppings, is this a problem?
Generally, bird droppings or other contamination on the antenna should not affect the operation of the sensor. We do, however, recommend that the antennas are cleaned periodically to prevent deterioration of the surface which could lead to corrosion. The requirements for cleaning the BTD sensors is explained in detail in the user manual which can be downloaded from the Biral website (click here). Assistance is also available from the Biral service department.

How do I calibrate/check the sensor is working?
All Biral BTD sensors have comprehensive in-built self-test and diagnostic feature that report any problems via the output data stream. Both of the BTD-3X0 sensors can optionally be supplied with a Field Test Unit (FTU) which is used to carry out initial functional tests after installation and periodic checks that the sensor is still performing within specification. Full details of how to use the FTU is explained in the user manual which can be downloaded from the Biral website (click here). There is no corresponding device for the BTD-200. Assistance is also available from the Biral service department.

How long is the warranty?
Standard warranties are 1 year for the BTD-200 and 3 years for the BTD-3X0 sensors. It is possible to purchase extended warranties but only at the time of purchase of the sensor itself. Assistance is also available from the Biral sales department.

What is the correct sensor for working at the coast or offshore?
For coastal, off-shore and marine applications we recommend use of the BTD-350 because it has been certified for marine operations for EMC, vibration and salt spray. Visually the BTD-3X0 sensors look very similar but the BTD-350 has additional support arms for the toroidal antenna and all three antenna are given an anti-corrosion white paint finish. Assistance is also available from the Biral sales department.

How do I return the sensor/what do I need to send back?
Firstly, contact our service department to inform us that you need to return the sensor.

Our service technician will discuss why you think that the sensor needs to be returned and then inform you which parts should be sent back. Once that is done, simply place the sensor in suitable packaging – preferably the box this it was originally delivered in – and send it to

For the attention of the Service Department
Biral
Unit 8
Harbour Road Trading Estate
Portishead
BRISTOL
BS20 7BL
UK

How do I clean the sensor and how often should it be done?
Gently wipe the antenna and plastic insulator supports using either a mild detergent or pure alcohol (propanol) on a soft cloth to remove any contamination. Appropriate safety precautions must be taken when using pure alcohol. The time interval between cleaning depends on the environment that the sensor is operating in but typically every 6 months should be sufficient. In areas where corrosive contamination is likely the frequency of cleaning should be increased.
The direction finder sometimes shows a fault during a storm, is this normal?
Direction Finder faults during thunderstorms are unusual. However, in rare instances it may be possible for a temporary “noisy calibration” fault to be produced when radio signals from intense lightning consistently contaminates the direction finder during its automatic calibration check. Since the calibration occurs every 30 minutes and lasts less than one second, contamination over several successive calibration checks required for a fault to be flagged is possible but unlikely.
The manual states that no movement of animals should occur near the detector. My BTD-300 is often overflown by birds. Will this produce alarms?
Generally, no. However, in rare instances some fast-flying birds can produce false alarms of distant lightning if they fly directly overhead within approximately 2m of the antennas. Isolated false distant flashes such as those produced by birds can be prevented from activating a warning by selecting the “warn on second distant flash” option in the software. A more detailed explanation can be found in Section 9.6 of the user manual which can be downloaded from the Biral website (click here). Assistance is also available from the Biral service department.

Why does my BTD-300 report occasional flashes greater than 45 nmi (83 km) away when no storms are in the region?
Depending on your selected sensitivity settings, the BTD may occasionally pick up signals from lightning beyond the official reporting range of 83 km, especially if the lightning is strong. In addition, very weak signals from natural or man-made sources within the 1-47 Hz listening frequency can occur, but are not related to thunderstorm activity in the region. If the reported distance is greater than 83km (45nmi) then the flash should be treated as ambiguous and ignored. A more detailed explanation can be found in Section 9.6 of the user manual which can be downloaded from the Biral website (click here).
Data from a lightning location network shows more lightning strikes in the area than my BTD-300. Is my unit working correctly?
Unlike almost all lightning networks that report “strokes”, the Biral BTD sensors report “flashes”. A flash is the complete lightning discharge. Each flash can consist of several strokes (the individual pulses of current which cause the lightning to appear to flicker to the observer) and that is why networks appear to report more lightning activity, since there is typically 2-5 strokes per flash. A more detailed explanation can be found in Section 9.6 of the user manual which can be downloaded from the Biral website (click here).
Why does my BTD-300 sometimes produce a different distance to the same lightning flash compared to that derived from a lightning location network?
If the installation site is less than ideal the BTD may require a site correction factor to be entered into the software (via the display screen) to compensate for any distortion of the ambient electric field caused by nearby metallic structures. A more detailed explanation can be found in Section 9.6 of the user manual which can be downloaded from the Biral website (click here).
Why are some flashes given a range but no direction when the direction finder module is installed and operating correctly?
Occasionally, lightning flashes will occur that do not have sufficient low frequency radio energy for the direction finder to be able to reliably determine their direction. In general, these will be weak intra-cloud flashes that occur close to the limit of the sensor’s range. Rather than this being a disadvantage or weakness in the BTD system it actually shows the benefit of our quasi-electrostatic operating principle which can detect and range those weak signals which would be completely missed by a conventional system relying solely on low frequency radio detection.
My Lightning Works software does not work after installing on multiple PCs
There are many possible reasons why this might happen but the most likely scenario is that you have installed more than one server version of the software, which will cause the software to fail.
I have installed multiple server versions of Lightning Works, how do I correct this?
There can only be one instance of the server software in any installation and that has to be on the computer that the BTD-200 is directly connected to. To remedy this situation, you must first delete all copies of the software except for the one that you intend to use as the server and then re-install copies of the client software where needed. Both the server and client software are on the memory stick supplied with the sensor. To uninstall the software please use the uninstall procedure for the version of Windows running on the computers.