Autonomous solutions specialist RCT has just released RCT Connect, the first digital WiFi communications network designed specifically for machine automation and control in underground mining operations.
The product is designed to be very user friendly and portable and can be installed into a production area and commissioned with minimal time and expertise.
RCT Connect has been ruggedised to withstand the harsh conditions common in underground mining environments and can operate in temperatures ranging from -20°C (-4°F) to +60°C (140°F).
The platform uses a coaxial cable which is able to transfer power and information to access points for up to 1.5 km before additional power insertion is required along the length of a drive.
This feature offers several major benefits over traditional WiFi deployments such as reduced requirement for configuration, eliminating costly cables to run between access points and a simple installation with only 2 connections
Once operational, RCT Connect provide’s a simplistic connection to a ControlMaster® Area Access Control at strategic locations which then links into the mine-wide backbone to transfer information to a machine operator located in a ControlMaster® Automation Centre on the mine’s surface.
The platform operates at 2.4GHz and is capable of carrying out remote diagnostics, live machine tracking and delivering live health and production data from the machine.
RCT Product Manager Automation & Control Brendon Cullen said RCT Connect offers several distinct advantages over commercially available digital communication networks.
"RCT Connect is specifically designed to ensure uninterrupted communication between the machine and the operator regardless of location," he said.
"The platform has very stable performance with low, consistent latency and so ensures reliable communications between command inputs from the surface station and subsequent machine activities."
"We have also optimised the platform to enable smart roaming and therefore seamless handover between wireless access points so that there is no dropout along the length of the drives."
In other commercially available communications networks node handover is configured quite differently so if the machine is looking for a node or hangs on too long then you see communication failures, he said.
The network has been tested at a mine site in Western Australia and was recently deployed in an underground mining operation overseas.
RCT Connect can be sold as a standalone package or in conjunction with RCT’s ControlMaster® automation products.