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Wireless sprinkler control

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Wireless sprinkler control


The present invention provides a system and method to control the flow duration and the flow rate of each individual sprinkler head wirelessly in each zone of an automatic sprinkler system. The system comprises a plurality of sensors, preferably wireless, to control the sprinkler heads, either directly or through a controller. The system enables precise control over irrigation times for the areas covered by each sprinkler head. The system also enables each sprinkler head to control its on/off and duration decisions based on receiving data from a sensor within an irrigation zone of an automatic sprinkler system.

Inventor: Dale K. Hitt
USPTO Applicaton #: #20120273587 - Class: 239 63 (USPTO) - 11/01/12 - Class 239 
Fluid Sprinkling, Spraying, And Diffusing > With Cutoff Or Flow Varying Means Operated By Means Responsive To Discharged Fluid (e.g., Ground Moisture Sensing)

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The Patent Description & Claims data below is from USPTO Patent Application 20120273587, Wireless sprinkler control.

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RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/860,770 filed Aug. 20, 2010, entitled Wireless Sprinkler Control, issuing as U.S. Pat. No. 8,215,570 on Jul. 10, 2012, which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/220,289 filed Sep. 6, 2005 entitled Wireless Sprinkler Control (now U.S. Pat. No. 7,789,321 issued Sep. 7, 2010), which claims priority to U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/607,706 filed Sep. 7, 2004 entitled Wireless Sprinkler Control, all of which are hereby incorporated herein by reference in their entireties.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention generally relates to a wireless sensor system for environmental monitoring and specifically relates to the control of a sprinkler system in an irrigation system.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Irrigation systems have been used for applying water to the vegetation. One common use of irrigation systems is for watering of the lawn. Such systems include sprinklers distributed over the area, underground water supply pipes to the sprinklers, and valves to open and close the water supply pipes, and central timing controller to operate the valves in accordance to a stored schedule in the controller. The controller controls multiple valves with each valve typically controls multiple sprinkler heads in a zone. Most controllers send signals to open and close the valves at designated intervals, typically calculated to provide a uniform and maximum amount of water required for each zone. This scheme of supplying water at a fixed amount throughout a large area can be wasteful since the vegetation area is thus watered automatically regardless of the changes in the need of water. Environmental conditions, such as rain, sunlight, wind and cloud, temperature change, humidity, soil moisture, or even a leakage sprinkler pipe or sprinkler head, can also change the amount of water needed at the time. It is thus beneficial to employ an irrigation system that can take the environmental conditions into account to adjust the amount of water accordingly. The system would provide a significant saving in water, energy, and money to the users.

Control systems for automatic irrigation systems used for landscape and agricultural maintenance are known. Most common types of environmental monitoring and control for irrigation systems incorporate a means of controlling the start time and duration of watering cycles via a central timing controller. Often the environmental control is through seasons such as watering more on dry season and less on rainy season. In conventional control system, the primary means for halting an automatic watering cycle when certain environmental event occurs is by an operator manually suspending the cycle at the irrigation controller. In most situations this proves to be an ineffective means of conserving resources due to the inconsistent and inefficient methods followed by the operator. In fact, quite often the operator ignores the need to suspend the watering cycle altogether, and in some cases neglects to resume the watering cycle when required, leading to both over-watered and under-watered landscaping. Operator interruption is also less effective since the controller is normally programmed to be operated at the very late evening or early in the morning, where most people would be at rest.

It is because of this unreliable and inconvenient manual method that environmental sensors were developed that allow for an automatic interruption of the controller due to an environmental condition. The use of sensors for irrigation systems has proven to be an effective and economical method of conserving water, energy, and money.

Existing automatic sprinkler controllers for residential and commercial applications are typically wired so that a central controller provides drive signals to each valve in the system to supply water to the sprinkler heads supplied by the valve. Thus, all sprinkler heads connected to a valve emit water at a fixed rate when the valve is turned on. The duration that the valve is turned on determines the amount of water applied to the area covered by each sprinkler head. The irrigation system can be divided into multiple zones for watering. Each zone may contain one valve, or many valves. Each valve is connected to multiple sprinkler heads. When a valve is activated, all the sprinklers connected to the valve will emit water at a fixed rate and in the same time duration.

The amount of water needed for different zone, or areas of the irrigation system is different, based on the location and the geography of the area. The moisture level, the amount of sunlight received at each zone, can be different from each other. The amount of water needed and correspondingly the valve on duration required for the sprinkler heads may be different in the zones. For example, one half of a zone may be in the sunny area while the other is covered by a deep shade. In this case, the sunny section of the zone will require more water than the shaded section of the zone. This is often addressed by using sprinkler heads that have different (but fixed) flow rates. The heads for the sunny section could have 0.2 gallon per minute flow rate and the heads for the shady section could have 0.1 gallon per minute flow rate. Another way is to have different zones with the same flow rate but with different timing. However, this does not accommodate changes over time like changes in shading or plan materials.

SUMMARY

OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a system and method to control the flow duration and the flow rate of each individual sprinkler head wirelessly in each zone of an automatic sprinkler system. The system comprises a plurality of sensors, preferably wireless, to control the sprinkler heads, either directly or through a controller. The system enables precise control over irrigation times for the areas covered by each sprinkler head. The system also enables each sprinkler head to control its on/off and duration decisions based on receiving data from a sensor within an irrigation zone of an automatic sprinkler system.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 shows an embodiment of a zone with one sensor and multiple sprinklers.

FIG. 2A shows an embodiment of the present invention where a microchip controller is located in the sprinkler head.

FIG. 2B shows an embodiment of the present invention where a microchip controller is located in the sensor.

FIG. 2C shows an embodiment of the present invention where the sensor is integrated into the sprinkler head.

FIG. 3 shows an embodiment of the present invention where a central controller is located separately from the sensor and the sprinkler head.

FIG. 4A shows an embodiment of the present invention where the sensor communicates directly to all sprinkler heads.

FIG. 4B shows an embodiment of the present invention where the sensor communicates to one central sprinkler head, which then transfers the command to other sprinkler heads.

FIG. 4C shows an embodiment of the present invention where the sensor communicates to a central controller, which then transfers the command to all sprinkler heads.

FIG. 5 shows an embodiment of the present invention where the sensors communicate to one central sensor, which then transfers the command to the sprinkler heads.



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stats Patent Info
Application #
US 20120273587 A1
Publish Date
11/01/2012
Document #
13544901
File Date
07/09/2012
USPTO Class
239 63
Other USPTO Classes
International Class
05B12/08
Drawings
6



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