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Made-SA Sky Mx Detects Power Lines to Save Lives

Calling it an “innovation that will save lives,” judges for the Lift and Access Leadership in Lifting Equipment and Aerial Platforms (LLEAP) Awards ranked Made-SA’s Sky Mx with marks high enough to make it a top winner in the competition. The power line detection system won the Platinum Award for Support Products and Services.

Accidents that result from contact between equipment and high-voltage lines are an issue throughout the lifting and access industry. Though sometimes these accidents end in fatalities, financial loss is more common. The goal of avoiding human or financial loss for the user is what prompted the La Farlede, France-based company to create the Sky Mx. Operating much like a backup alarm, it is designed to alert the aerial work platform operator if he’s near a power line.

An operational aid designed from the same technology as the company’s SkyRadio system, Sky Mx enables detection of the proximity of a high-voltage electric line in a free field. It warns the operator via audible signal and warning light when lifting equipment approaches a 15 kV medium-voltage line at a distance of about 10 feet or a 50 kV or higher line at a distance of about 17 feet.

“We install a sensor on each critical point of the boom,” says Philippe Capon, commercial export sales manager for Made-SA. “This sensor will detect the proximity of the electric power line.” Once the operator reaches a dangerous area, the sensor will send a signal directly to the central processing unit (CPU) of the Sky Mx. On the SkyRadio, the signal was transmitted via an antenna mounted on the roof of the cab.

“The operator will then be alerted, thanks to the CPU’s buzzer,” says Capon. A small remote can be attached to the operator’s belt, the machine’s horn, or a special warning flashing lamp. Though the operator can judge for himself whether he can safely continue movement of the machine, the system forces him to pause and take note of the approaching power line. As the machine gets closer to the power line, the warning sounds more rapidly.

In the detection of the electric field, the wireless system runs on four sensors and a CPU with an integrated antenna. Each sensor includes a radio transmitter/receiver module, which communicates continuously with the CPU. The SkyRadio CPU’s antenna is mounted on the cab roof, and an internal clock enables time-stamping of all the detection data. The user can scan a radio channel to detect interference.

Sky Mx measures the electric field around a medium- or high-voltage line and then, by the analysis of this measurement, indicates the no-go zone. The processing module continuously monitors the sensors to verify operation, battery charge level, and various radio channels to avoid failure. It also ensures redundant safety checks for the whole system.

Designed specifically for the North American market, the system, which is made in France and distributed through US Radar in Matawan, N.J., adapts to any machine. The CPU operates via 12- or 24-volt battery. Independent molded sensors are housed in a waterproof compartment in the vehicle. It operates in temperatures from -4° F to 140° F. Its measurement precision is ± 6 inches from a 15-kV line in a free field and without multiple fields, and ± 20 inches from a 50-kV line.

“Every year, a lot of accidents happen due to high voltage lines, generally resulting in fatalities,” said Capon. “For each operator using equipment like aerial lifts, power lines are a strong concern. Because this kind of accident involves both human and financial loss, we developed the [Sky Mx] equipment to help these working guys in their field operations.”

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