Joe O’Conner (left) of O’Conner Engineering in Cayce, Ky. checks out a computer model of his tornado detector. O’Conner is joined by his two employees Dustin Morris and Matt Doughty, who is holding one of the detectors.
It’s compact, solar-powered and has the ability to detect a tornado on the ground up to two miles away.
Joe O’Conner has designed and built an innovative tornado detection device that is able to accurately detect the signature swirling air associated with a tornado.
He has been marketing the device through his website, and although he hasn’t sold any of his detectors yet he said there has been interest in the units.
“It’s in the early stages still,” O’Conner said. “We’ve tested the concept and we know it works.”
The detectors cost from $15,000 to $18,000 each and that price includes installation and set-up of the system.
“It’s a very simple device, but it will detect motion,” O’Conner said as he pointed to a graphic image of the detector on his website.
O’Conner is an engineer whose company is headquartered at his home between Union City and Cayce, Ky.
He operates an office in the former Cayce School north of Union City and divides his time between his local office and his second home in Pfullendorf, Germany.
Working with him at the Cayce School are Dustin Morris and Matt Doughty.
O’Conner started O’Conner Engineering in 1991 after having worked for about 11 years for Goodyear Aerospace Engineering in Arizona. He also spent about six years working in Germany developing missile guidance systems.
His background in engineering and design set him up to make the transition to designing radar systems for commercial applications. It is his technology that is being used in the mobile speed monitoring units being used by the Union City Police Department.
O’Conner has designed and built a wide array of radar products and he uses the Cayce School gym to test his designs.
A large area of the south wall of the gym is covered with aluminum foil, which is used to reflect and measure the radar signals from his inventions.
His tornado detector is a low-power (24 GHz) Doppler radar designed to fit atop a standard utility pole.
The unit is nine inches in diameter and is three feet tall.
O’Conner designed his tornado detector to constantly scan the horizon using a rotating parabolic antenna that searches for tornadoes. Since the unit is solar powered, it is capable of operating even if there is a power outage.
Inside the glossy white tubular tornado detector is an electronic filtering system used to eliminate false alarms from such distractions as low-flying aircraft or blowing debris.
Once the unit detects a tornado, it emits a loud siren and flashes a strobe light as a warning. At the same time, a wireless signal can be sent to a receiver linked to the unit.
The tornado detector is FCC approved and is designed to be used as a single unit in rural areas or as part of a network set up in urban areas.
For instance, it would take four of O’Conner’s tornado detectors to cover Union City. In addition to the siren and strobe lights, the detectors could be linked to the local 911 Emergency Communications Center, according to O’Conner.
Given the recent outbreak of deadly tornadoes across the country, O’Conner’s tornado detectors hold particular significance. Tornado warning systems currently in use are designed to alert areas to the potential threat of a tornado or the presence of a tornado.
O’Conner’s system provides an even more accurate and local warning, giving people more time to seek shelter.
Among some of the other devices O’Conner Engineering features on the company’s website is a blind spot detector for vehicles, a docking system for ships, a simple method for detecting relative velocity and a high resolution ranging sensor. The company produces radar devices for land, sea and air applications.
O’Conner Engineering’s products utilize short-range radar sensors.
The company also offers remote control systems and Paranet wireless Internet through its website.
Editor’s note: Kevin Bowden is a staff reporter for the Union City Messenger. Contact him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.