Coal Age

JUL-AUG 2018

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24 July/August 2018 collision avoidance Perfecting Products for a Dynamic Market The best-selling collision avoidance systems are maturing, evolving and finding their place in an industry transitioning to full automation by jesse morton, technical writer The established companies selling colli- sion avoidance systems promote them as fast and reliable. Not long ago, the latter adjective could not be used to honest- ly describe advanced communications systems. Generally, Wi-Fi-, GNSS-, GPS-, and radio wave tech-based systems have all proven susceptible to outages caused by weather, by obstacles, by space weath- er and geomagnetic fluctuations, and by interference from other communications systems. Within the last half-decade, those challenges have reportedly been mostly bested, and the top-selling sys- tems are now being advertised as proven at delivering largely uninterrupted near- real-time data that can help an operator avoid an incident that could result in an injury or death, cause damage and down- time, and permanently mar his or her work record. As if in response to this development, demand for collision avoidance solutions is reportedly on the rise, and the race to perfect and evolve them has intensified. These developments are timely as the mines with the largest fleets are now con- sidering fully autonomous solutions. Proximity Awareness Comes of Age The two big trends for 2018 in the collision avoidance space are the headline-grab- bing moves toward fleet-wide automation and the growing adoption of more versa- tile proximity awareness solutions, said Craig Watkins, commercial manager for surface mining technologies, Caterpillar. "The big growth area in 2018 in automa- tion is the oil sands," he said. "We are get- ting a lot of strong pull on remote control, semi-automation and fully automated systems." Meanwhile, the "big story in manually operated equipment and safety is Cat's Proximity Awareness," which pro- vides "context" and a "differentiated level of situational awareness to the operator," he said. "We're pretty excited about that." The Proximity Awareness system, an offering from the MineStar Detect solu- tions suite, came of age in the last half-de- cade. The seed concept germinated in 2009 when a partner miner running a large operation in Chile sought a solution to the ubiquitous threat of "big things interact- ing with little things," Watkins said. At the time, Cat offered a new radar- and camera-based system called Object De- tection, but the Chileans wanted more. In less than four years, that solution grew into the first iteration of Proximity Awareness. As it grew in popularity and usage, the feedback rolled in and the solution "just evolved," Watkins said. "Once we entered the market, the customers started to say: We need it to manage speeding infringe- ments for us and those functionalities; we need a playback capability; we need to keep trucks out of areas they cannot go; we need to keep light vehicles out of the drill pattern. That is how it has built up over the years." Based on a peer-to-peer communi- cation system, Proximity Awareness was introduced at MINExpo 2016 and was promoted as delivering "fast and reliable communications between vehicles" and presenting "collision avoidance informa- tion to operators without the need for a robust radio network covering the site." The non-Wi-Fi-dependent system has minimal components and can be deployed to both heavy and light vehicles. It allows vehicles to ping signals off each other and equipped infrastructure, and the resulting data can be processed instantly and stored onboard for a day. It can be configured to trigger various alarms designed to signal possible collisions or infringements, and configured according to site safety proce- dures. It provided the user basic but ac- tionable data via an in-cab display. With it, Watkins said, "you can create conditional zones to allow only certain kinds of equipment in." For example, "If you've got a dozer operator working on a stockpile, they can own that zone and the system can be configured to let them know every time a truck is coming in," he said. "Or Above, the Proximity Awareness display in a truck cab. (Photo: Caterpillar)

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