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Industrial Ethernet Book Issue 97 / 4
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Looking at Industrial Ethernets role in Chilean miner rescue

Most people don′t know that an Industrial Ethernet switch played a role in the rescue of 33 Chilean miners back in 2010, in part because of its suitability for harsh industrial environments. The switch, mounted in the Phoenix capsule, was used to transmit video images back to a control room on the earth′s surface.

BASED ON A TRUE STORY, the movie "The 33" depicts a disaster that strikes when a mine in Chile collapses on August 5, 2010. In the movie, as in real life, 33 miners are trapped underground for 69 days, with more than 2,000 feet of rock blocking their rescue. The story details the many different strategies and efforts attempted to free the trapped miners, as well as their struggle to survive with little food and water in extremely hot, dark and humid conditions.

Watching the film reminded me of the actual event back in 2010 and, what few people may know, that small industrial Ethernet switches played a role in the successful rescue mission. When someone asks me about examples of unusual applications for industrial Ethernet, this one is definitely at the top of my list!

In transporting digital data from the field level into a cloud, existing security mechanisms must be applied intelligently.

Underground rescue

The miners were ultimately reached underground by drilling a narrow diameter tunnel down to them, and a rescue capsule was lowered to where the miners were trapped. They were removed one at a time using the capsule, which was risky considering it could have become stuck in the long tunnel.

The ′Phoenix′ capsule weighed 924 pounds, had an interior height of 6 feet 4 inches and a diameter of just 21 inches. A team of NASA consultants and Chilean navy engineers helped construct the device. The tunnel rescue is actually the setting for the final scene of the movie. A happy ending indeed as all 33 of the trapped miners were rescued.

One of Red Lion′s Sixnet industrial Ethernet switches was mounted in the Phoenix, which transmitted video images back to a control room on the surface. The network-transmitted video feed was used to inspect the rock structure of the tunnel walls and movements of the capsule, and helped rescue teams get a better understanding of the conditions that the Phoenix would be facing in the tunnel. The camera could look up, down and inside the capsule so that rescue teams would know what would happen during its movement. One note is that, for the actual rescue and transport of the miners, the switch was removed to help make the Phoenix as light as possible.

Red Lion worked with local partner Transworld and donated compact 4-port Ethernet switch for use in the pod. The switch that was used endured 95-degree Fahrenheit temperatures and high humidity to transmit the video images. A difficult environment, but one that industrial-grade Ethernet could definitely handle!

An Industrial Ethernet switch like this is ideal for this kind of extreme situation because of its small size and light weight, high heat and humidity tolerance, and ability to be deployed quickly and easily.

While it′s too late for a "spoiler alert" to save revealing the end of the movie, you already know that all 33 miners were rescued after 69 days...and now you know that industrial Ethernet played an important role in the actual rescue. Rugged industrial Ethernet switches, which are designed and built to handle extreme conditions, not only worked well in the Chilean Miner rescue, but are also well suited for other harsh environments.

Tracy Courtemanche, Director of Red Lion Controls.

Source: Industrial Ethernet Book Issue 97 / 4
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