MST makes portable Wi-Fi a reality for coal mines

(Global Release, 11 December 18)

MST Global’s Wireless Repeater Node (WRN) has received IECEx Ex ia Ma certification allowing the Wi-Fi mesh device to be used in underground coal mines where IEC standards are followed.

“As Automation and IoT become more embedded into operations, the need for reliable, high-bandwidth connectivity being maintained right to the working face has never been higher. The WRN is a key part of MST’s mine-wide digital solutions to ensure this connectivity is achieved” said Denis Kent, MST’s General Manager, EMEA.

When released earlier this year with MSHA certification and MA Chinese certification, MST’s WRN was embraced wholeheartedly by a number of US and Chinese operations, being hailed as a breakthrough in wireless mesh technology for mines. Finally, a cable-free, lightweight, portable Wi-Fi repeater was available that could easily and quickly take the network to every active corner of a mine.

The WRN, used in conjunction with a mine’s existing fixed Wi-Fi network, is designed to bridge the signal between a cabled network access point and the dynamic mining areas where cabling is not practical or economical to implement. Additionally, WRN is designed to enable Wi-Fi meshing of multiple nodes, meaning network coverage can be rapidly extended to temporary working areas, effectively filling communication black spots.

“Pairing WRN with MST’s IMPACT Network provides a fit-for-purpose Wi-Fi/IP network capable of seamlessly enabling VoIP, tracking, video and other data transmissions to and from the active faces and drives where it is needed most.” Kent said.

WRN is completely self-contained and powered by two independent, rechargeable batteries that provide 120 hours of operation. The patented Lachlan Wheel® technology allows for the batteries to be hot-swapped without loss of connection. The Skyline Mine in Utah has found this to be one of the key benefits of replacing their previous less portable, intrinsically safe Wi-Fi system with WRN. “It was a lot of work to haul a complete charged unit to the face and bring the dead ones back.”

Now, having installed multiple units along the longwall face, the miners “don’t even touch the WRNs, they just throw the replacement batteries in their pocket and change them out.” said Gerald Zabriskie, Electrical Specialist at Skyline Mine.There is no requirement for an electrician or specially trained staff to install or remove a WRN or its batteries. The true benefits of this feature are realised in life-threatening situations. WRN is currently being used by emergency response teams for mine rescues in China to facilitate voice communications as well as stream live video from a helmet camera to the surface.

The WRN is Intrinsically Safe to international explosion protection requirements and has multiple hanging and mounting options. The flexible antenna arrangements mean a variety of external antennas for special applications or signal requirements can be utilised. ­­Its unique design makes WRN the most versatile and easily deployed Wi-Fi system on the market.

The WRN is the missing link in the communications industry’s arsenal. Fully developed and manufactured by MST Global.

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