Success Stories Usibelli Coal Mine


The Usibelli Coal Mine (UCM, tucked away in the Alaska Range of mountains and hundreds of miles from a population base, set out this spring to make major improvements to processes and safety. A family owned business, UCM is the only operational coal mine in all of Alaska and supplies coal to six Interior Alaska power plants and several Pacific Rim destinations. Joe Usibelli Jr., President of the corporation, wanted to move operators from a hazardous area to a more secure one from which they could still monitor the status of the equipment. Video coverage was needed both above ground and in the mine shafts themselves.


The viewing angles required were wide angle and made a perfect fit for high resolution/low light cameras. The Fluidmesh wireless mesh solution is scalable and highly re-configurable, and is rated for the most extreme conditions. The video quality proved far superior to the expectations of the owner based on traditional CCTV. Removing the complexity of the hard-wired approach allowed the integrator.

Project Description at a Glance

Wireless mesh was a smart way to go, especially because the mine features a deep vertical underground shaft and a tall pole in the center of the field. Both locations have a relatively clear line of sight to the new control room. A wireless mesh provided a very effective, non-trenching way to link the field cameras to the head-end, and Fluidmesh had the technology needed to tackle the infrastructure needs to a tee. The customer also had a tight schedule of operations that would not have lent well to trenching.

The dynamics inherent to this installation that make wireless mesh technology a good choice are long distance line of sight camera locations, harsh environmental conditions, and the constantly changing layout of the site. This install was pioneering in many ways, as ATS had not worked on a coal mine project before, and had very limited experience with wireless mesh technology. “Fluidmesh provided top-notch tech support,” says Chris Ragula of ATS-Alaska.

“This is another important success story that we proudly add to our portfolio,” notes Cosimo Malesci, Fluidmesh VP of Sales. “After extensive testing, Fluidmesh supports megapixel cameras encoding in MJPEG, MPEG4, and JPEG 2000 giving our customers maximum flexibility in their deployment and a smooth integration. The Fluidmesh proprietary transmission protocol allowed us to provide a bandwidth and a reliability much higher compared to an 802.11 based wireless system. In addition, the IP68/Nema6P rating of our mesh units make them a perfect fit for harsh environments such as coal mines, refineries, seaport, and chemical plants.”

The project flowed smoothly, as ATS was able to secure material for the project on a highly escalated timeframe. “We had product in our hands four days from the booking date,” Ragula points out. “We had the site installed and operational within seven days of start of the project. The setup was very streamlined for both products and our technicians were able to figure out the new product in no time.”

The end-user, Ragula reports, was immediately satisfied with the results and began plans for further expansion of the system. “We intend to visit the site in the coming months to re-locate one of the FM-1100’s to accommodate a reconfiguration of the site. We plan to expand the system by eight or more cameras.”