ProSoft’s wireless radios help control Missouri thrill ride

  • May 30, 2013
  • ProSoft Technology, Inc.
  • Case Study

By Victor Garcia

The thrill seeker prepares for his adventure on the flight deck. He decides whether he will surf, ride a magic carpet or be a superhero several feet above the ground at speeds up to 50 miles-per-hour through the scenic Ozark Forest and Branson, Mo.’s Country Music Boulevard. He is then harnessed safely and securely, before he sets off on his SkySurfer journey.    This isn’t your ordinary zip line. SkySurfer a zip line and roller coaster combined into one. People ride SkySurfer standing, sitting or laying flat on one of three open air carts, without cages or handrails, as it goes up and down around the nearly one-mile cable through the urban and wooded area. Two other adventurers are also going along the rollercoaster-zip line hybrid on their own separate carts as the three are moving simultaneously at different spots on the course. This requires the utmost safety measures to be in place. Before people were able to experience this thrill ride, it had to pass several tests. One of the tests required each slave Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) on the three carts to communicate with the Allen-Bradley MicroLogix 1100 master PLC on the flight deck. The master PLC has an HMI connected to it so an operator can start a cart and monitor data. The Problem The original wireless radio communication system that was installed to communicate the distance between the two carts wasn’t working properly.  There was a 40 second delay in data reception, which is an eternity when it comes to safety. The main purpose for the wireless system is collision avoidance.   Each cart has an encoder on it, which tells how far along the cart is on the track based on each time the wheel spins. Each slave PLC is doing the math and the radio is supposed to send the encoder signal to the master PLC, which can tell the cart to slow down if it gets too close to another cart. The original radio communication system wasn’t performing its job. Project Manager Jared Story spent months of time trying just about everything he could to get his original radio communication system to work. He originally thought it was a software issue. It wasn’t.  Story’s troubles lasted through early November. Originally, Story wanted to open by the 4th of July last year.  That didn’t happen. His next goal was to open in time for the holiday crowds.  Time was running short. It was early November and Story still couldn’t get his original wireless radio system to work. Technical support from the original radio system company was non-existent.  Their excuse for not sending out technical support was that Story didn’t buy the radios directly from them.  “They refused to help me. It didn’t make me happy,” Story said. The Solution The solution was ProSoft Technology’s RadioLinx RLX-IFH9e 900 MHz Industrial Frequency Hopping Ethernet radios. One was installed on each of the three carts, with one at the Master PLC. Story heard about ProSoft through an engineer who had used ProSoft Technology solutions. He then contacted a ProSoft distributor in Springfield, Mo. Its field representative suggested he contact ProSoft Technology. Eric Lockman, a Wireless Support Engineer who works out of ProSoft Technology’s Madison, Wis. office, received a call on Nov. 4 and performed onsite support only a few days later.  In what had taken months of time just to find a solution using the other radio system, Lockman had the ProSoft Technology RLX-IFH93 radios performing the job in a mere four hours. Once Lockman arrived, he performed a site analysis and installed three temporary RLX-IFH9e radios. A ping test showed there was connectivity all the way around the track, as Lockman and the SkySurfer crew sent the carts off along the course. Lockman had received satellite views of the area a few days before. “There was full signal all the way around,” Lockman said.  And that was with only a small gain antenna. “Even with the small gain antenna, it did well.”  Story bought the radios from the distributor, SMC Electric out of Springfield, Mo, immediately that day. “When we were there and things started working Story said, ‘I don’t know whether I should be happy or upset,’ because he was happy they were working and upset he took so long to find the solution,” Lockman said. The ProSoft Technology RadioLinx RLX-IFH9e radios allowed Adventure Zip Lines of Branson to open in time for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday vacationers.    Now superheroes, magic carpet riders and air surfers can fly safely on SkySurfer thanks in part to Prosoft’s RLX-IFH9e radios.

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