Guardians in Cold Weather Environments
Rainforest Connection’s mission is to develop and leverage conservation technology to empower partners to monitor biodiversity and protect threatened ecosystems from illegal activities.
RFCx Guardians are hardware devices installed in the tree canopy, they constantly gather data on the surrounding environment and transmit it in real time to the cloud for processing and storage. Guardians feature a highly sensitive external microphone that captures all ambient sound within a radius of 50 m to 1,000 m depending on the source of the sound. A specialized conﬁguration of solar panels (designed to capitalize on the thin and short-lived bands of sunlight that penetrate tree canopies), on-board power management and LFP battery packs provide power to the Guardians. In addition to GSM and Wi-Fi, the device also comes built-in with Satellite connectivity which enables the device to run on board audio analysis and transmit alerts in real time.
GUARDIANS IN COLD WEATHER ENVIRONMENTS
Extreme cold weather events which result in snow, sleet, and ice, can have significant effects on the RFCx Guardians that are deployed in these conditions.
Rainforest Connection has experienced these challenges when deploying Guardians in Romania. This location gets heavy and continuous snowfall, and there are cases in which Guardians have successfully continued to operate in these winter conditions, however, there have also been cases where they have stopped within two weeks of winter’s start.
There was no notable difference between the type of Guardians, settings or positioning between the device deployments. The key difference was the environmental variables. These weather-caused variabilities are still unknown and therefore uncategorized by Rainforest Connection.
For example; multiple Guardians were installed in the Carpathian Mountain project site in the winter of 2021 (Jan to March). During that winter, the area experienced over 1m of snow. The pictures below show the level of snowfall during that time, and the challenges it created for the partner to be able to access the Guardian install sites.
Snow settling and covering the forests of the Carpathian Mountain
As shown in the pictures below, snow accumulation on solar panels is a frequent occurrence that the team observed while working in Romania.
The snow settling on a Guardian and the surrounding tree
Snow setting on the solar panel of Guardians will invariably block sunlight from charging the Guardian battery, moreover, because the pitch of the panels is only slightly slanted, the snow will not slide off. The only way it will melt is for the Guardian to get enough sunlight at a constant rate and for a long enough period of time to create heat.
In most cases, the snow only starts to melt at the beginning of Spring. This meant that the Guardians go into a “hibernation mode” over winter until the snow on the solar panels melts enough to absorb sunlight again. In this hibernation mode, the devices will not record audio, nor send alerts.
When the Guardians are offline for a longer period, it reduces the chances for a successful self-reboot and the ability to get back online again. Finally, it is important to note that it is highly probable that Spring/Summer will be the only months that the Guardians will remain online.
For the above reasons, we recommend installing Guardians in temperate regions during Springtime or Summer months.