Mining Contract: Design and Demonstration of a Location Tracking System for Underground Coal Mines (Award 2)
Ultra-wideband (UWB) is a radio technology that can be used for short-range, high-bandwidth communications by using a large portion of the radio spectrum in a way that does not interfere with, or experience interference from, more traditional radio systems. It has found applications in radar imaging, precision positioning, and tracking technology.
Contract Status & Impact
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L3 Communications has combined UWB technology with active reverse Radio Frequency Identification (RRFID) tags. As a miner walks through the mine, an antenna integrated into his or her cap lamp receives an UWB-based signal from the fixed tag in closest proximity to the miner. By utilizing UWB signals, the proposed system is able to overcome mine environment challenges (e.g., numerous reflective surfaces) which impede the effective use of standard narrowband communications systems, thereby decreasing the number of active tags required.
Research under this contract involved three phases. Phase I (prototype feasibility testing) was completed and the final feasibility report was reviewed by NIOSH. Testing at Consol's Enlow Fork mine in Pennsylvania showed that the location of a miner outfitted with the system could be calculated within 50 ft with roof-mounted tags spaced about 150 ft apart. Phase II involved the design of a preproduction system for long-term testing. NIOSH reviewed and approved the final design report. Phase III involved fabrication of the system, submission to MSHA for approval, and long-term testing at a coal mine.
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