The FreeStation initiative uses open source hardware, open source software and open source 3-D printing technology to build and deploy reliable automatic weather stations with the lowest cost and easiest build possible. These are designed to facilitate the accessibility of reliable, detailed and local climate data in areas that may have little local financial and technical capacity for the collection of such data. As the name implies, these stations are being made available to relevant organisations (schools, local government, NGOs) free of charge. Users of these stations are able to read the data using a custom app on any Android smartphone or via a computer, which will provide them with access to the raw data and graphical summaries of recent climate variables as well as agriculturally and hydrologically relevant analytical derivatives. At the same time, the downloaded data is uploaded to the policysupport.org servers and thereby contributes to the temporal and spatial detail of data available in widely used policysupport.org tools such as WaterWorld.
The FreeStation Nano includes one of soil moisture, rainfall, temperature and humidity or rainfall sensors. The FreeStation Micro includes for temperature, humidity, solar radiation and rainfall. The prototype FreeStation Meso adds wind speed and wind direction. The FreeStation Macro adds wind driven rainfall, fog and/or soil moisture at 2 depths. The FreeStation concept has the potential to fundamentally change the local information base available to farmers and water resource managers, whilst crowdsourcing real-time, ground-based environmental data globally. Combining these data with the vast satellite-derived archives in WaterWorld and other policysupport.org tools, more sophisticated and locally-relevant policy and decision making support can be provided.