Mining Contract: Design and Demonstration of a Location Tracking System for Underground Coal Mines (Award 2)

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Contract # 200-2007-21250
Start Date 7/25/2007
End Date 11/30/2009
Research Concept

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.

Topic Area

Contract Status & Impact

This contract is complete. To receive a copy of the final report, send a request to

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.

L3 Location Tracking System

Page last reviewed: July 18, 2016
Page last updated: July 18, 2016