5: FAA Warning Lights

Susquehanna to Roseland Transmission Line – FAA Obstruction Light Monitoring & Radar Control




  View Video of FAA Obstruction Lights


The Susquehanna to Roseland Transmission Line has about 30 structures in New Jersey and Pennsylvania that require FAA obstruction lights. Providing AC power for the lights was costly so the utility powered most lights by solar systems from Northern Reliability.
The scope of the project required:

  • In certain locations the lights should be off when there are no aircraft in the vicinity. This would be achieved by radar (from DeTect, Inc) that detects aircraft in the vicinity and notifies IGIN-EFS. IGIN-EFS turns the lights on or off depending on whether an aircraft is detected in the vicinity or not.
  • If the radar or connectivity should fail, a failsafe mechanism would cause the lights to stay on.
  • If the lights fail, an alarm should be sent for FAA notification and to maintenance crews.
  • IGIN-EFS should monitor the health of the solar power systems.

There are four groups of towers with FAA Obstruction Lights. Three groups have a population of lights that need monitoring/control, while one group needs monitoring only. Each group of lights has an OPGW fiber splice point for data backhaul (OPGW splice points are not available at every tower). A decision was made to use the OPGW fiber for communication to the appropriate splice point “Gateway” and then route the data wirelessly using unlicensed 900MHz to the individual towers. Verizon Cellular communications would be used temporarily (for about 18 months) until the fiber installation is complete. Additionally, DigitaLogic was required during the initial stages of the contract to host the system (for light failure & alarms) and to automatically send alarms to utility recipients via text and emails. The system was later installed on the utility’s premises with the data being sent via DNP to their system. During this phase, DigitaLogic continued to manage the system over a secure virtual private network (VPN).

In addition to the Susquehanna to Roseland Line, the utility has a growing number of other FAA obstruction lights that require monitoring (approximately 30 monitoring-only sites in 2015). The lights are supplied by TWR Lighting, Flash Technology, itl and Unimar connected with I/Os and/or Modbus. Connectivity includes 3G and 4G cellular, fiber and 900 spread spectrum (900SS). In the past, some sites were monitored using analog voice channels and these were migrated to cellular/900SS hybrid channels in 2014.

IGIN-EFS provides the central technological connectivity platform that enabled each utility and vendor organization (project managers, construction crews, fiber installers, radar providers (DeTect), solar power vendor (Northern Reliability), UPS enclosures (Cleaveland Price), utility IT group, utility system management group, etc.) to follow their independent schedules asynchronously without worrying about the end-to-end connectivity. 

IGIN-EFS Highlights:

  • Security - The system has 256 bit encryption, time authentication, signature authentication, pass-wording and other security features.
  • Scalability – the ability to start with a few sites and expand to many sites over time using different communications mediums (trunk voice, fiber, cellular, 900MHz, etc.)
  • Reliability – Fail-Safe applications to detect communication failure for unsolicited connectivity and to switch the lights on until end-to-end communications are re-established and aircraft leave the area. The Failsafe application asynchronously accommodates different communication environments (TCP/IP, Serial, Fiber, Wireless) and is able to automatically recover once end-to-end connectivity is re-established.
  • Hosting – The ability for DigitaLogic to host the system.
  • Email/text notification - The system and automatically notifies utility personnel of alarms via email and/or text.
  • Logging & Advanced communication diagnostics – The diagnostics include detailed logging at the front end and remote site, reporting communication events, reliability statistics, health of power supply and many other parameters on a real-time basis. This information is provided in order to simplify trouble-shooting and maintaining a reliable real-time wireless/cellular system on a pro-active basis.

  • The ability to keep up with changing technology without becoming obsolete.
  • Ability to upload/download files (e.g. configuration, text, extended sequence of events, etc.) over narrowband or wideband channels.
  • Single platform supporting all protocols, communication and connectivity options (Cellular, Wireless-Spread Spectrum, Fiber, Trunk Voice, etc.)
  • Each Remote Site can report a large number of analogs and status points. IGIN is configured to only report specific points specified by the user.
  • Broadcast control to multiple devices (e.g. On/off to group of FAA Tower Warning Lights, Timesync, Dormant, Restart, Unsolicited AI/DI configuration).
  • Ability to communicate with any device from any lighting manufacturer (TWR Lighting, Flash Technology, itl and Unimar) and the solar power RTU (Red Lion via Modbus).

    Case Study 5-a