Bridge from Scotland to Northern Ireland Alternative Solution

Yesterday UK prime minister Boris Johnson re-announced his plans for a bridge linking Scotland to Northern Ireland.

Critics, including many leading engineers have suggested that the plan is impractical.

This is due to the depth of the water, and also the fact that the seabed contains huge amounts of dumped World War2 explosives.

A better alternative

So is there a better way to link Scotland with Northern Ireland?

I believe there is.

My design will allow cargo transport between Scotland and Northern Ireland, using guided drone trucks.

The drone trucks will hover above the sea.

The drone trucks will be guided by radio signals, to keep them on track.

 

More details to follow soon!

 

 

Drone Trucks The Future Road Ahead

Why have Potholes, why not Drone Trucks!

We need to redesign ‘HGVs’, to be driverless, and to run down the underused ‘hard shoulders’ of motorways (with appropriate detection of obstacles, such as broken cars in way).

An alternative charging solution could be ‘pitstop stations’, which are areas set off the motorway hard shoulder, allowing the vehicle to stop and charge, whilst not obstructing the hard shoulder traffic lane.

Driverless HGVs could also be electric-powered, self-charging, using under road wireless charging.

This blog post is about my ideas for the future road ahead.

Roads as we know them today, have been around for millennia, in one shape or form.

Although they are probably better than they have ever been, from a historical perspective, they are not perfect.

Heavy traffic levels, combined with restricted road maintenance budgets in many countries, have led to crumbling road surfaces.

Flying Trucks!

If trucks could fly then you solve the problem of the road wear.

Of course, trucks don’t fly, well at least not yet they don’t.

Drone Trucks!

Drone trucks could replace conventional road trucks, and save road wear.

Road wear would be eliminated because the drone trucks would hover off the ground.

The drone trucks would be guided using radio waves, guided by radio beacons, and GPS.

Drone Truck Safety.

Trucks are obviously heavy, so having one hovering above other road users could be potentially dangerous.

Power Issues

The issue with conventional drones is that they use propellers to make them fly.

The size of propellers needed to lift the drone truck, and its cargo, would need to be large.

Large propellers need large electric motors to power them, which require lots of power.

An alternative hybrid solution involving an airship combined with a traditional drone might be the solution.

The drone truck I have in mind (and have designed in principle) would be capable of carrying heavy loads for long distances.

More Efficiency

The drone truck would be guided by wireless beacons and GPS tracking.

The drone truck would not require a driver, which would save money for the haulage operator.

Not having a driver would also eliminate the need for drivers to stop for statutory rest breaks.

This improves the operational efficiency of the vehicle and greater return on investment.

 

Subscribe to my Youtube Channel

 

Reimagining The Road Of The Future | Craig Miles

Reimagining The Road Of The Future

Reimagining the road of the future, will improve on current road space efficiency.

The M1 motorway in the Uk now carries ten times the daily traffic, that it was originally designed for.

The M1is Britain’s oldest motorway, and was opened in 1959.

For those unfamiliar with the term ‘motorway’, it is similar to the autobahn, autostrada, highway etc in other countries.

The motorway is a multi lane, high speed road, with barriers separating the two opposing directions.

The Problem with Motorways Today

In many countries, such as the Uk, the popularity of the car as a mode of transport, has put pressure demands on the motorway networks.

The are are three ways to tackle the increased congestion:

  1. Restrict the public’s access to cars and other non business vehicles.
  2. Build more physical road infrastructure.
  3. Make better use of existing road ‘real estate’, though new technologies.

This article is mainly focused on the third option, of making better use of what we already have built.

Firstly however, lets look at what is wrong with option 1, restricting public access to using private not business vehicles on the road.

Restricting the use of motor vehicles by the general public would be a controversial move.

Some environmental groups, such as Greenpeace & Extinction Rebellion might welcome it.

However the majority of the public would become angered.

An annoyed public poses two problems for a countries leaders.

Firstly, some communities have poor transport alternatives to the private motor vehicle.

This could be due to the lack of bus and train services.

This could prevent some people being able to continue in their jobs, and therefore pay tax to the state.

The second issue, is related to politics.

Introducing a policy that restricts potential voters access to using their cars, could be a foolish move politically.

This is especially true near election time.

If governments tried to restrict car use, then how would they achieve their objective.

Some countries like Greece and India, have tried to control pollution on bad air quality days, by vehicle registration number.

For example only cars with either an odd, or alternatively an even number at the start of their vehicle registration plate, can drive on that particular day.

This approach potentially causes problems for people getting to work.

Though the approach potentially encourages car sharing with colleagues and neighbours.

Another approach to reducing car transport is to only allow ‘Green’ vehicles on particular roads.

Central areas of cities such as London, now have low emission zones, where only green vehicles, such as electric, are allowed.

Some cities alternatively do allow older more polluting vehicles on certain roads, but with a high ‘congestion charge’.

The congestion charge makes it expensive for more polluting vehicles to use the roads.

This unfortunately is an unintended form of discrimination against mainly poorer people, with older cars.

Basically its mainly the poorer, that end up paying more to drive.

Option two from my list is to build more physical road infrastructure.

First lets look at the advantages of building more roads:

Building more roads creates construction jobs, and the workers pay taxes, and buy things from businesses, such as televisions and mobile (cell) phones.

Initially cars can flow easier, as there are more roads. Though as the M25 around London proves, they soon become very popular and congested.

The sensible solution therefore would be option three, namely to make better use of existing infrastructure.

I have imagined a few improvements that can be made to the existing road system.

One imagination, is an integrated system between road and rail.

The system would use an app on your smart phone, to enter your destination.

The app would work in a similar way to Google directions at present.

But rather than the app giving you directions via smartphone voice and maps, it would tell your driverless car where to go.

The driverless car would then take the shortest route to your destination.

The system is integrated with the railway system, and vehicles automatically drive on and off special ‘flatbed’ trains.

I have made a video on youtube, which further explains the concept.

This article will be expanded  and continued on a regular basis, as time permits. So keep coming back, or subscribe.

 

Drone Trucks The Future Road Ahead | Craig Miles

 

 

 

 

 

 

5G IOT Benefits For Society

Opportunities

5G IOT (Internet of Things) brings a number of benefits and new opportunities to the business world, allowing new business opportunities.

5G is the fifth generation of mobile phone technology, which originally started with the analogue TACS system, back in the 1980s.

Although data SIM cards for IOT applications are already available for use with 3G/4G, 5G is the first mobile (cell) phone technology specifically designed for use with IOT.

5G offers fast Gigabit data transfer rates, with very low latency.

The 5G network is also very reliable, with a dense number of local cells giving good redundancy, in case one cell should fail.

At least this is what is claimed, though of course history shows us that the mobile phone system can temporarily go down.

5G IOT is set to be a massive growth area, with estimates of 76 million 5G connections by 2025 (Source: ‘IOT Analytics’).

IOT Potential Uses

Robotics

5G allows the effective connection of Industrial robots.

When we think of robots, people imagine different things, but robotic machines range from static robots, such as those used in car production, to autonomous guided vehicles (AGVS).

Other applications include:-

Video Surveillance

Smart Intelligent Mobility

Smart Grid Automation

In Car Infotainment

Vehicle Telematics

The use cases above, will be expanded on when I get more free time.

So check back regularly.

 

Creating a World Farm

Future World Farm

Creating a world farm would have two main advantages.

The first advantage is economy of scale, and the second advantage is increased profit and revenue.

So first I will explain what I mean by a world farm. What I mean is using technology to manage areas of agricultural land, located in geographically disperate locations.

An example is having a wheat field in the UK, and another in Australia, managed through communications technology.

Whatever your views on world politics, globalisation is here to stay, an will likely increase due to technology.

Smart agriculture offers more efficient farming through the application of sensors and robotics.

The Internet of Things uses environmental sensors, to collect data, such as soil ‘ph’.

The data is transmitted wirelessly from the sensors, using LPWAN technologies such as LoraWAN or Sigfox.

At the receiving end of the data transmission, a device called a Gateway, receives the wirelessly transmitted data, and puts it onto the Internet.

Once the data from the remote sensors is in the internet cloud, analysis and automated decisions can be made.

Robotics also now being developed to replace humans in agricultural food production.

An example of a farming process currently often done by humans, is picking cabbages.

Picking cabbages is labor intensive, and therefore is significant in the costs of production for the farmer.

A robotic solution would have a high initial outlay cost, but may be cheaper over a number of years of expected operational life.

As happens today with some agricultural processes, such as ploughing, there is a new potential business opportunity for agricultural contractors. In the future contractors may well bring a robot to a farm, rather than a tractor or plough!

Of course with the introduction of driverless vehicles, in the future the Plough may bring itself to the farm!

So back to creating a world farm, which is the focus of this blog post after all.

Satellite IOT

Just to recap for non technical readers, what IOT actually means.

IOT is short for the ‘Internet of Things’.

IOT is a general term that covers any device or machine connected to the Internet.

Therefore IOT devices encompass both devices used by the public, such as sensors on mobile phones, and also Industrial IOT (IIOT).

IOT devices use a variety of wireless connection technologies, but they work at a terrestrial level.

What I mean by terrestrial, is that the radio signals are all transmitted from the ground.

The radio frequencies used in IOT devices vary, but are at radio frequencies above 30 Mhz (MegaHertz).

In normal atmospheric conditions, radio transmissions at frequencies above 30Mhz travel in ‘line of sight’.

What this means is that they don’t bounce off the ground, or atmospheric layers, as is possible at frequencies below 30 Mhz (known as ‘HF’, or High Frequency).

Using HF frequencies long transmission distances of thousands of miles are possible, due to the signals ‘hopping’ and being reflected by various ground and atmospheric layers (intend to write a separate blog post on this).

IOT devices don’t use HF frequencies below 30 Mhz, for a few reasons, one being that a very long antenna is needed at lower frequencies. This makes using it impractical for wireless field sensors.

Therefore we are dealing with radio waves above 30 Mhz, traveling in basically straight lines.

Now consider the shape of the Earth, which unless you are a ‘flat earther’, is round.

As the distance between the wirelessly connected sensor and the receiver increases, the curvature of the earth can become a factor.

In radio communications, such as the mobile (cell) phone system, antennas for the cell base stations are mounted on towers.

The reason in case you haven’t already guessed, is to help overcome the earths curvature.

Having a high antenna allows the signals to travel further, without obstruction.

Now in the case of agricultural crop monitoring, the sensors might be in the ground. Whilst it may be possible to mount the sensor antenna higher than the sensor itself, it will still likely be near ground level.

Now of course in theory you could attach a long antenna coaxial cable, between the sensor unit and the antenna.

This however would reduce the power of the signal being transmitted, due to increased signal attenuation caused by the long antenna cable.

To be continued soon…….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Induction Motor Starter Types

Induction motors are a common type of ac motor, used in both industries and onboard ships, with a number of induction motor starters.

The type of induction motor starters that are chosen, depending on a number of factors.

Direct On Line Starters (D.O.L)

Direct online, or D.O.L for short, are a simple way to switch on smaller ac Induction Motors.

DOL is used to start smaller induction motors, which have a current rating of up to 10 amps.

In a DOL starter system, a Contactor is used to switch on the induction motor.

The Contactor is similar to a large electrical relay, and its function is to switch on and off, the large currents drawn by the induction motor.

When the operator presses the start button on the control panel, a voltage is supplied to an insulated coil inside the Contactor.

The coil works as an electromagnet and exerts a magnetic pull on the switch contacts also inside the Contactor casing.

The magnetic field causes the switch contacts to close, therefore allowing current to flow into the induction motor and starts it.

The switch on the control panel that is used to start the motor only works when it is pushed in. As soon as the operator releases their finger, the power ceases.

This is obviously not convenient to have to hold the button in, therefore an extra ‘auxiliary contact’ is included in the Contactor, which is wired to ‘lock’ the supply current on, even once the button is released.

The Contactor will remain locked on, allowing the induction motor to run, until a separate off button is pressed.

The off button breaks the link to the auxiliary contact, which releases the Contactor, and cuts the electrical supply to the motor.

In a three-phase DOL starter system, a single-phase supply is taken from one of the input phases and fed into the primary side of a single-phase step down transformer.

The output from the transformer is used to supply the coil inside the Contactor, which closes the contacts, and makes the motor start.

Star-Delta Starters

Star-Delta Starters, which the Americans call Wye-Delta Starters, are used for starting larger induction motors.

What I mean by larger induction motors, are motors that draw over 10 Amps of current at full load.

Induction motors have a metal plate on them which specifies the maximum current drawn by the motor.

This will be described as FLC, which is short for Full Load Current.

The reason we don’t use DOL starters for larger ac induction motors is something called ‘inrush current’.

When you first start an induction motor, the current drawn by the motor is a number of times higher than the motor’s steady operating current.

It’s similar to when you accelerate a car from a standstill, in that more energy is used to get it going than when it’s cruising at the desired operating speed.

The problem with having a high initial current on motor startup is that you need bigger capacity cables & contactor to cope with the large current.

Needing larger cables increases costs, as a motor with a FLC of 20 Amps, might have an ‘Inrush’ current of five or more times the FLC.

20 Amps x 5 = 100 Amps!

Star-Delta starters reduce the initial starting (inrush) current by starting the motor in a ‘Star’ wiring configuration.

A three-phase induction motor has three sets of coils in its Stator windings. This results in six connections coming out of the Stator (two ends of each of the three coils).

To be continued…..

How to Reverse the Direction of a Three Phase Induction Motor

 

 

How Marine Generator Works & Fails

How a marine generator works is something I taught to students at South Shields Marine School many times.

The photo is of a marine generator from an old ship.

The end has been removed to allow easy access, and for demonstration and test purposes.

The marine generator in the photo was original attached to the ‘Prime Mover’ (ships engine) by a coupling at the other side of the generator.

The coupling is connected to a shaft which goes into the generator casing.

Inside the generator casing the shaft is connected to a Rotor.

Attached to the Rotor are electromagnetic Poles.

The Poles are supplied with DC (Direct Current) electricity, and act as electro-magnets.

Theory states that electricity can be generated by moving a magnet through a coil of wire.

This is why the Poles attached to the rotor, are turned into electro magnets.

As the rotor, and hence the poles rotate, they are surrounded by large coils of wire.

The large coils of wire that surround the poles is called the Stator.

The Stator coil in a marine generator, consists of three sets of copper wire coils.

There are three sets because the generator is a three-phase generator.

The three coils are connected in a star configuration as shown on the screen.

 

Each of the phase connections, which I have labelled ‘phase 1’, ‘phase 2’, ‘phase 3’, are connected to the generator ‘Bus Bar’.

The Bus Bar is the output connection from the generator, which connects to the ships electrical system.

Generator Exciter

I mentioned earlier that the poles which are attached to the generators rotor, are supplied with DC (Direct Current).

The device that generates the DC voltage is called an Exciter.

The Exciter is attached to the same rotating shaft as the main generator (which is driven by the Prime Mover).

The difference with the Exciter compared with the main generator, is that the poles are fixed & do not rotate with the rotor.

Instead the rotor, which contains coils of wire, rotates between the poles.

Therefore like the main generator, the exciter produces electricity.

The poles in the Exciter differ slightly from those in the generator.

The difference is that they retain magnetism, even when the generator is not being used.

Without this residual magnetism, the generator would not be able to start.

This is because there would be no magnetic field for the coil of wire (in the stator) to move through.

Therefore no electricity generated.

Just like the main generator, the Exciter produces AC, or Alternating Current.

Therefore to produce the DC needed to supply the generator poles, the AC needs to be connected to DC.

This is done using a rectifier circuit, which is incorporated into the Exciter.

A rectifier circuit uses diodes to chop off half of the alternating current, so that only DC is produced at the rectifier circuits output.

 

This DC is then fed via wires, into the Poles of the main generator, creating magnetism in the Poles.

If we didn’t change the original AC produced by the Exciter, into DC, then there would not be a stable magnetic field produced in the generator Poles.

Fault Finding

If the generator has been idle for a period of time, and you try to start it, it may not work.

This is due to the loss of magnetism in the Exciter Poles.

The Poles are designed to maintain a residual magnetism, even when the generator is off.

This magnetism can however ‘leak away’.

This happens over a period of time, due to the fact that the Exciter is encased in a metal casing, which can absorb the magnetism.

If the generator will not start, and it has not been used for a while, this could be the generator starting problem.

The solution is to put the lost magnetism, back into the Exciter Poles.

This is done by what is known as ‘field flashing’.

You can field flash the Exciter Poles by attaching a battery to the Poles wiring connections, for a short period of time.

This will re-magnetise the Poles, and hopefully allow the generator to start.

Generator Maintenance Testing

A marine generator is both mechanical & electrical.

Mechanical Checks

Include bearing lubrication, and wear measurements, using Feeler Guages.

Electrical checks are mainly focused on the continuity & Insulation resistance values of the generator Stator.

Continuity Checks

As previously stated the three coil windings in a marine generator Stator are connected at one end, to form a Star connection.

 

Continuity checks test that the coils are not broken, and have a low electrical resistance, from one end of the coil to the other end.

The only slight problem you may face is that the ‘Star Point’, which is the point at which the three coils are connected together, is not accessible, on your generator.

This is because the Star Point is often buried in the Stator windings.

If this is the case,  what you need to do is measure the continuity through two sets of windings at a time.

This is done via the three Bus Bars, using a low range Ohmmeter.

The resistance should be low, and very similar, between the different coil combinations tested.

Insulation Resistance Checks

The three separate coils of wire in the three-phase generator Stator should have a high resistance between them.

If there was no or little resistance between the coils, then a short circuit would occur, and the generator would not run.

An insulation resistance meter tests the windings resistance  under realistic working conditions, by supplying a high voltage to the coils.

For a 440 Volt marine generator, you would normally set the insulation meter to double its normal operating voltage.

Insulation testers typically offer 250, 500 & 1000 Volts ranges.

Therefore for a 440 Volt marine generator you would test at 1000 Volts.

If you are regularly testing, you may wish to reduce the meter setting to 500 Volts, so not to unduly put stress on the Stator winding’s.

The minimum insulation resistance figure under SOLAS regulations is 0.5 Mega Ohms.

Though really you would not want to see anything below 2 Mega Ohms in a healthy marine generator Stator.

 

 

Earthing Systems On Ships Insulated Neutral Versus Land

Insulated Neutral on Ships

Contents:

The difference between land based power delivery and the earthing system on ships (most, but not all).

  • Land based = Connected neutral & earth
  • Earthing systems on ships = Insulated neutral, not connected to ships hull

Land based connections

  • Main priority is maximum protection of people and livestock.
  • Neutral & earth connected together at local substation (step down transformer), and also where the cable enters the building.
Earthing systems on ships

Most ships have an ‘insulated neutral’  electrical system.

As the name suggests, the neutral wire is insulated from the ships hull, which is the closest thing to a land based earth aboard ship, at sea.

Insulated Neutral Practical Differences

On land, an earth fault would cause the Residual Current Device, or RCD,  to trip.

The system is designed for maximum protection of people & livestock.

At sea the main priority is safety of the ship.

If critical systems such as steering gear were the trip, due to a single fault, then it could potentially be catastrophic.

Therefore on ships a single earth leakage fault between the power and the ships hull, can happen without tripping the circuit.

What happens instead is that an alarm will be triggered on the ships earth fault monitor panel.

It is important that a single earth fault in an insulated neutral system is repaired as soon as possible.

This is because if a second fault should occur, then the circuit will trip, which could out the ship at risk.

 

 

Wireless Outdoor Intercom Linked Two-Way Radio Designing

This blog article is about the design process of designing an outdoor wireless Intercom.

Background To Project

An existing industrial manufacturing client emailed me to ask if I could ‘programme up’ a couple walkie talkies.

The customer needed to start locking their store room when unattended, due to workers helping themselves to supplies.

They wanted to mount a couple walkie-talkie radios on the wall, so that workers could call for the store to be unlocked.

The client wanted one radio to be mounted directly outside the storeroom, and the second outside the building.

They thought that perhaps the radios could be mounted in some sort of external case, to protect them.

This is especially important for the radio mounted outside the building, due to rain and snow.

The potential problem with mounting expensive handheld two-way radios outside, is also theft.

The clients site is on a secluded industrial estate, and the entrance to the car park, and hence the exterior of the building is open.

After clarifying with the client as to exactly them wanted, I sent them the rough idea for a radio linked Intercom.

The photo above shows the rough initial idea for a wireless outdoor intercom.

Luckily it was exactly what the customer was looking for.

So now I knew what they client wanted, all I needed to do now is figure out how to make it work.

RF Electronics Options

The design brief from the client, requires the intercom to be able to call the portable digital two-way radios that the factory managers have.

The purpose is so that they can come and unlock the storeroom, or unlock the outside door (both of which are now locked).

After a personal brainstorming session, I came up with the following options.

  • Bluetooth link, with audio capabilities.
  • DECT communication technology, like cordless phone.
  • Licenced PMR Digital Radio.
  • Unlicenced PMR446 Radio (analogue or digital)
  • Audio over Wifi

Once I had come up with the initial list of possible ways to link the intercom with the existing two-way radios, it was time to evaluate.

Firstly I considered Bluetooth.

Bluetooth was introduced in 1994, and is currently up to version 5.

In addition to what is now known as Bluetooth ‘Classic’, there is now also ‘Low Energy’, and ‘Mesh’.

As the names suggest, ‘Classic’ is an updated version of the original Bluetooth.

‘Low Energy’ is designed to use less current from its power supply.

This makes it suitable for the Internet Of Things, as enabled sensors can last for years on same battery.

Product like Smart Watches use Bluetooth Low Energy, or BLE as it is commonly known.

Bluetooth Mesh allows data to ‘flow’ through multiple ‘nodes’ en route to their destination.

This enables data to travel longer distances than would otherwise be possible using ordinary Bluetooth.

Mesh technology is great for controlling projects like Smart Lighting, but is not needed for our simple intercom design requirements.

As you hopefully have now appreciated, there are different types of Bluetooth for different purposes.

Bluetooth was originally designed as a technology to wirelessly replace RS232 type Serial communications cables.

It has also developed  into a technology capable of  transmitting audio.

Bluetooth modules capable of audio, have a Digital Signal Processor (DSP) included in their design.

Positives of using Bluetooth for the Intercom

The intercom has the following design requirements:

  • To allow instant wireless voice communication at the push of a call button.
  • Be capable of being powered by battery, with long battery life.

Bluetooth audio could provide the communication link between the intercom and the two-way radio.

It uses fairly low power consumption.

Could also be made to work with app on mobile phone, as all smartphones now have Bluetooth built in.

Disadvantages

Relatively short range, which might be an issue, if the receiving Bluetooth module of the two-way radio, is too distant.

Time delay to establish the connection, unless left connected (which has power consumption implications).

At the time of writing (27th November 2019) , I am still researching Bluetooth technology in more detail, so I might still use it for the design.

DECT RF Technology

The next RF (radio frequency) technology that I considered for the intercom design, was DECT.

DECT is short for Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications.

Sometimes you may also see it called Digital European Cordless Telecommunications, as the technology originated in Europe.

DECT has been adopted worldwide, and is most commonly used in cordless phones.

However I considered using DECT to provide the wireless communications link between the intercom and the two-way radios.

Advantages

DECT provides clear two-way audio communication.

DECT operates at 1900 Mhz  (1.9Ghz) which has the advantage over Bluetooth & Wifi, which operate at 2.4Ghz (2400 Mhz).

1900 Mhz is an advantage because it is a less crowded frequency, and therefore less subject to potential interference from other users.

Disadvantages

There is less choice in DECT modules available, compared with technologies such as Bluetooth.

The modules for DECT enablement of the wireless outdoor intercom also seem to be more expensive than Bluetooth.

Licenced PMR Digital Radio

PMR stands for Private Mobile Radio.

…..more information on the design project coming soon. Come back regularly.

Craig

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bluetooth Integration Services Smart Factories

Bluetooth Integration into existing factory machinery is possible.

By connecting a factories existing machines wirelessly to networks, smart factories can be created.

Integrating Bluetooth is an option for wirelessly Connecting machines to the Cloud.

Smart factories need to be able to closely monitor parameters, such as vibration and current of induction motors.

This allows the creation of Predictive Maintenance systems.

Using a wireless link to transfer data, rather than cables, saves installation time and cost.

Bluetooth is not the only wireless technology that can be used for smart factory integration.

The choice of the most suitable wireless link technology depends on a number of factors.

For example if long range, low data rate communication was required, then technologies such as LoraWAN might be better.

It is a myth however that Bluetooth is only suitable for short range communication.

Distances of up to a Kilometre are realistically possible.

Another option is to use the mesh version of the technology.

Mesh networks can send the signal over a wide area, by ‘passing through’ the separate nodes within range.

This can create a long distance network of connected nodes.