By Jonathan Goebel, EIT, M.SAME
The United States and the Department of Defense (DOD) are strongly committed to supporting improvements in the effectiveness of United Nations Peace Keeping Operations (UNPKO). Concurrently, there is a need to reduce the environmental impact of UNPKO, not only to protect the global climate for present and future generations, but to improve the efficiency of ongoing efforts.
In support of these objectives, the DOD Technology Support to UNPKO – Pilot 2: Environmental Workshop was held to investigate, identify and nominate defense technologies and best practice solutions to reduce environmental impacts. This Pilot 2 Workshop was conducted to analyze and develop how DOD can support UNPKO improvements in operational energy efforts. This workshop, held July 14-15, 2016, was hosted and supported by the Center of Technology and National Security Policy of the Institute for Strategic Studies.
During the Pilot 2 Workshop, the U.S. Army Engineer Research & Development Center (ERDC) proposed an operational demonstration of the Deployable Metering and Monitoring System (DMMS). This demonstration effort would consist of providing and installing the DMMS and its components in Bangui, Central African Republic, at the logistics base of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).
ONSITE DATA COLLECTION
DMMS uses a three-pillar approach to onsite data collection. The first pillar is for the data collection and the communication of that data to a centralized dashboard. The second is the dashboard itself, which provides real-time visualization of the data in a format that can be used at the local level to make instantaneous decisions for operations and maintenance of the deployed site. The third pillar is the option of sending the metered data to a remote location for additional analysis.
By combining both hardware and software, DMMS creates a complete metering solution. The hardware consists of sensors for metering generator and energy load profiles, radios for creating a self-contained, self-healing wireless mesh network, and a hardened Head End Unit to create a database of collected data. The software is an open-sourced dashboard used for managing the meter data and monitoring sensor data real-time through the Head End Unit.
DMMS was designed as a DOD “plug-and-play” system, utilizing standard surface-laid energy distribution components. The idea behind this design was to eliminate the need for further troop training. The intelligence capability was added to the system—thereby removing the risk of needing to install custom metering technology by the warfighter.
For the operational demonstration, the DMMS was modified from its original “p l u g – a n d – p l a y ” configuration to a system that uses the same three-pillar approach but was better suited for the MINUSCA requirements. After consulting with the MINUSCA Environmental and Engineering Sections, the hardware and software components of DMMS were adapted for their specific needs. For example, the radios that were used were configured to frequencies that would not interfere with existing infrastructure on the logistics base. Also, the dashboard was completely redesigned to adhere to the requests of MINUSCA leadership.
After the DMMS was selected by the Pilot 2 Workshop, an ERDC team scheduled the initial site visit to the MINUSCA base in Bangui. The visit took place in September 2017, with two researchers from the ERDC Operational Energy Team hosted by the MINUSCA Environmental and Engineering Sections to gain a better understanding of the current infrastructure and the energy plan. The site visit allowed ERDC to have face-to-face communications with MINUSCA leadership, which was beneficial for United Nations and DOD relations. It also helped in the design of a custom DMMS to fulfill the specific energy metering needs.
The ERDC team visited remote sites within the MINUSCA area of operations at the Fidel and Socatel military camps. Through this visit, an idea for future deployment of the DMMS was discussed. The system has the capability of connecting directly with the MINUSCA Wi-Fi, which would allow engineers to access data from remote sites throughout Central African Republic. This capability has not been incorporated into the existing DOD version of the DMMS due to additional security requirements.
These requirements, however, are not a concern at MINUSCA. This feature would be extremely helpful to its engineers, by allowing them to analyze real-time and historical energy data from remote sites. This could eliminate the need to fly an engineer to problem areas to diagnose energy issues, since the diagnostics could be completed at the base.
Once the ERDC team returned from the initial site visit, development of the adjusted version of the DMMS began. Since DMMS is a wireless system, the DOD version requires levels of encryption and spectrum management. However, the only wireless requirement given by MINUSCA was to restrict the frequencies used in the wireless communication. The “plug-and-play” portion of the DMMS was also altered, since the MINUSCA logistics base has a power generation system that utilizes underground wiring. To fulfill this requirement, energy meters were selected to be installed at select distribution panels.
After the DMMS was built and tested, a date was chosen for two ERDC researchers to install the system. Due to the volatile relations in Central African Republic, the initial install date had to be pushed back. But the researchers were able to travel and complete the mission in July 2018.
The installation consisted of placing 10 energy meters and four radios at select base locations. The Head End Unit, which acts as a centralized hub of data, was installed in the recently built engineering building. The hardened computer in the unit is used to store the data and as the medium to display the dashboard. During installation, a few on-site adjustments were necessary due to the future plans to update the electrical configuration of the logistics base. Since the DMMS is based on an open-source system, these adjustments were not an issue and quickly resolved.
TRACKING VALUABLE DATA
During the out-brief to MINUSCA leadership, the DMMS was used to show data trends over the previous days on the dashboard. The data showed the maximum overnight load of the logistics base was less than 125-kVA, even though the smallest generator online was 500-kVA. This provoked an immediate question of why there were not smaller generators online to run the base more efficiently during the overnight loads. Instant feedback is where the DMMS is most effective. By providing realtime and historical energy data trends, local users can visualize the energy profiles. From these reports, immediate changes can be made to increase the efficiency of the base, saving money in fuel and generator maintenance, and saving time in diagnosing energy-related issues.
DMMS is a complete metering and monitoring solution designed for deployed sites. While this system was used specifically for energy metering at the MINUSCA logistics base, it has been used at multiple sites for metering and monitoring water usage and fuel consumption. DMMS can meter any data that is monitored. Utilizing the open-source dashboard and a localized database, it can be adjusted for any application. If there is data to be collected, DMMS can visualize it for instantaneous results—and absorb it for future analysis.
Jonathan Goebel, EIT, M.SAME, is Mechanical Engineer, Environmental Processes Branch, U.S. Army Engineer Research & Development Center – Construction Engineering Research Laboratory; firstname.lastname@example.org.
[This article first published in the March-April 2019 issue of The Military Engineer]