To take things one step further, the Winnipeg International Airport’s central deicing facility lighting is controlled by a mobile laptop PC using a high-speed wireless EtherNet/IP communications module.
The lighting infrastructure of deicing pads resembles a mini-airport, where an individual called the Iceman controls the movement of aircraft within the deicing area. The Iceman’s mobility is quite important as he moves about the facility and guides aircraft in and out under the most severe winter conditions.
Wireless mobile units are becoming common on the airfield, not just for deicing but for mobile maintenance units, like the one designed for Phoenix Mesa Gateway Airport. The airport uses ProSoft Technology’s IP66 weatherproof radios to communicate from the maintenance vehicles to the main control system locations including the control tower and two electrical vaults.
If a runway is closed for maintenance, airport electricians can roam the airfield performing mandatory light checks while manually controlling each circuit from their mobile wireless computer. In the past, they would have had to contact the tower to switch circuits on and off for them, a tedious and time-consuming procedure at best.
Wireless communications has proven to be very successful, but not without its challenges.
“When you run fiber, you dig a trench and put it in the ground,” says Wodzinski. “You know it’s there. With wireless the biggest difficulty is pinpointing a point of interference if, for example, the airline implements an overlapping unrelated wireless network in the terminal. We can’t control who else is in the spectrum tomorrow.”
Jim Weikert, wireless strategic product manager, adds, “Interference is an innate concern with open frequencies. For these types of applications ProSoft Technology offers several options for monitoring network health. For example, OPC [an open standards specification] can be integrated into an HMI or SCADA system and through Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), which allows IT engineers visibility to network performance. In addition, ProSoft Technology offers alternative solutions at 900 MHZ, 2.4 GHz, and 5.1 – 5.8 GHz bands, allowing the system to be tailored to work within the spectrum available.”