U.S. Lightning Products

The Rise of U.S. Lightning Products


U.S. Lightning Products (USLP) has seen tremendous growth over the past decade to become one of the leading manufacturers of lightning detection and monitoring equipment in the United States. From humble beginnings in a small garage in Tampa, Florida, USLP is now a globally recognized leader for innovative lightning detection technology.

Early Beginnings
USLP was founded in 2003 by Joseph Smith, an engineer with a passion for severe weather forecasting. Seeing a need for more accurate and reliable lightning detection networks, Smith began tinkering with designs for compact lightning sensors in his spare time. His first prototypes showed great promise at detecting lightning strikes within a 50 mile radius with minimal false alarms. With encouragement from family and friends, Smith decided to pursue his passion full-time and thus U.S. Lightning Products was born.

The early years were challenging as Smith worked tirelessly on improvements to the sensors while also handling sales, marketing, administration and manufacturing mostly on his own. However, persistence paid off and within a few years USLP had gained its first customers, which included small television stations and weather services. Word of mouth along with Smith’s dedication to customer service helped grow the business steadily through the late 2000s.

Heading in New Directions
By 2010, USLP had established itself as a trusted supplier of individual US Lightning Products sensors across the Southeast. Smith realized it was time to take the company to the next level and focused on developing integrated lightning detection networks that could cover entire states or regions. This involved new hardware, software and installation services to aggregate data from dozens or even hundreds of sensors simultaneously.

The first major network project was for the state of Alabama, which went live in 2012. Comprised of over 200 sensors, it provided real-time lightning location data and alerting capabilities for emergency management agencies across the state. Project success led to similar networks being installed in Georgia, South Carolina and Northern Florida over the following years. Television broadcasters also became significant clients looking to improve coverage of severe storms through USLP’s network technology.

National and Global Expansion
The robust and reliable performance of USLP’s growing networks helped propel the company to new heights in the late 2010s. Major contracts were secured to deploy nationwide networks for Mexico and Canada, vastly increasing international presence. USLP also gained attention from federal agencies like FEMA and NOAA who were seeking advanced lightning data to improve forecast modeling and warning lead times for extreme weather.

In 2018, USLP moved its headquarters and manufacturing to a new 130,000 square foot facility in Clearwater, Florida to accommodate rapid growth. New product lines were launched including mobile lightning mapping systems for aircraft and vehicles as well as compact battery-powered sensors for remote locations. Several strategic acquisitions also strengthened research and development capabilities. By 2020 USLP networks and products could be found monitoring lightning activity across North America, South America, Europe and Asia.

Technology Leadership
Throughout its evolution, USLP has remained committed to developing cutting-edge lightning detection technology. Joseph Smith who now acts as Chief Technology Officer spearheads an in-house research team focused on pushing the boundaries of lightning detection science. Some notable achievements include developing Phased Array based detection able to pinpoint strikes to within 300 meters, dual-polarized antennae for more accurate vertical electric field measurements and machine learning algorithms that classify lightning types in real-time.

USLP also established the Lightning Research Center in 2016 to collaborate with leading universities. Through this, advanced studies have provided insights on lightning propagation, impacts on infrastructure and how detection networks could better support lightning safety programs. Looking ahead, USLP aims to incorporate optical and VHF broadband techniques to detect lightning attributes like return strokes in unprecedented resolution. Continued technology leadership will be key to empowering forecasters and serving an ever broadening customer base globally.

Modern Operations
Today USLP employs over 450 people at its headquarters and satellite offices worldwide. There remains a strong culture of innovation, with over 15% of the workforce dedicated to R&D. Manufacturing adheres to stringent ISO9001 quality standards with dual production lines and thorough component testing. Extensive in-house and partner installation and technical services ensure smooth commissioning of systems while responsive 24/7 operations support maximizes uptime.

International Expansion
International markets now account for nearly half of USLP’s revenue. Direct sales offices have opened across Central and South America while partnerships handle distribution in Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. Localized networks have launched recently in Argentina, Chile, South Africa and India among others. Technical college internship programs have also helped staff international operations with multilingual local hires.

Areas of future focus internationally will likely include maritime and offshore detection given increasing frequency of oceanic lightning. Demand is also anticipated from developing markets in Southeast Asia and Africa as governments boost investment in weather monitoring capabilities. With flexible hardware and software solutions, USLP is well positioned to continue growing internationally for many years to come.

The Next Decade
Joseph Smith remains optimistic about USLP’s future as lightning monitoring makes inroads across more industries and applications. Networks provide crucial data for renewable energy load balancing, aviation safety programs, wildfire mitigation efforts and insurance damage assessment. Integrating lightning data streams into other meteorological, atmospheric and GIS datasets is also opening up new predictive modeling possibilities.

Moving forward USLP aims to build upon its legacy of innovation through ongoing technology breakthroughs, strategic partnerships and delivering exceptional customer service worldwide. Commercial space weather detection capabilities may also be pursued given lightning’s role in atmospheric electricity. With continued dedication to advancements in science, systems and global outreach, U.S. Lightning Products is sure to solidify its status as the worldwide premier resource for comprehensive lightning intelligence well into the next decade.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it