Cat Detect Personnel Uses Radio Frequency Identification Tags to Enhance the Safety of Mine Workers

Caterpillar has developed the Cat Detect Personnel system which uses radio frequency tags to identify the presence of people near mining equipment.

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Caterpillar announces Cat Detect Personnel, a personnel proximity detection system designed to enhance the safety of workers around longwall systems and continuous miners. Personnel is part of the Detect capability set of Cat MineStar System, which incorporates fully integrated technology products used to optimize productivity, enhance safety and improve machine utilization and uptime for underground and surface mining operations.

Using radio frequency identification (RFID) tags worn by personnel and detection units mounted on mining machines, Cat Detect Personnel (Personnel) accurately and reliably identifies the presence of people on a longwall or near a continuous miner and transmits personnel location information to the machine control system. The control system then takes appropriate actions—such as inhibiting machine movement and providing warning signals—when necessary to avoid potentially unsafe situations. 

Personnel for longwall systems includes equipping each roof support with a detection unit, which transmits data to the control system governing automated roof support advance. In the case of the Cat PMC-R (Programmable Mining Control for roof supports) electrohydraulic control system, Personnel would delay advancing roof supports when people are detected in the affected area. The PMC-R controls have a bright 180-degree LED warning light and an acoustic alarm to indicate that roof support movement is pending.

Cat Detect Personnel for continuous miners is in development. The system detects the presence of people within a certain distance of the machine and in potentially unsafe locations. When appropriate, the system provides a warning signal to such personnel and the machine operator and inhibits machine movement until the area is cleared.

Each RFID tag worn by underground personnel incorporates a battery-powered transponder, essentially a transmitter and receiver. Each tag also has an identifier that is configurable with software to suit the needs of the mine. The tag could be configured, for example, to identify each person wearing a tag in the mine and/or to identify the wearer’s job title and specialized skills. That information could be transmitted to the longwall gate ends and to a mine office underground or on the surface for use in scheduling and assignment of personnel.

Both the tags and readers are small and intrinsically safe. The tags are easy to wear, and the readers are easy to install on equipment, because no explosion-proof enclosures are needed. Both the tags and readers have very low power consumption. Most important, the system is highly accurate, and the longwall system—because each roof support controller acts as the local controller—has no delay, unlike systems that rely on communications via gate end controls to process data. The software is flexible and offers plug-and-play capability with the Cat PMC-R longwall controls.