Satellite Communications for River Intake Pump Station Monitoring & Control

Water Intake Pump Station Monitoring

River Intakes pose SCADA Communication Challenge

River Intake Pump Stations are commonly located along river banks where it can prove challenging to find reliable wireless communication solutions whether being private radio systems or cellular based.   Intake locations often will have radio frequency (RF) obstructions by terrain and/or foliage which make terrestrial RF communications unreliable or near impossible.  Repeater systems are often deployed for terrestrial wireless communications systems. Even with repeater system, SCADA communication are still frequently unreliable.

Given the connectivity obstacles, satellite data communications can be a good alternative. Satellite systems can be (GEO) Geosynchronous Earth Orbit or (LEO) Low Earth Orbit based satellite networks.

Satellite solutions can range from high speed VSAT (GEO) solutions to lower speed packet data services such as Iridium SBD Short Burst Data  (LEO) & Inmarsat IsatData Pro (GEO).

For many applications, these low speed satellite communications can be a better alternative to unreliable terrestrial communications. A benefit of the low speed satellite communications solutions is that they utilize small omni-directional antennae that make these systems easy to deploy and do not require installation by satellite communications technicians.

The utility of satellite communications can be applicable both to permanent or temporary water intake station sites.

Solve Long Standing Unreliable SCADA Communications

Satellite connectivity can be a good alternative for replacement of  troublesome unreliable terrestrial SCADA communications.  Over the years , unreliable terrestrial SCADA communications at intake stations have been a common problem in municipal and industrial systems. Existing deployments  of intake stations SCADA communications are often unreliable. The difficulty and high cost of rectifying these shortcoming prevented proper resolution.  We have seen this in water systems at towns and cities; oil and gas plants; mines, and manufacturing plants. Now, satellite connectivity can allow cost effective and timely resolutions of these long standing and effective resolution of these communications problems.

Monitor Temporary Water Sourcing and Pumping Applications

Satellite communications can be a particularly good alternative for temporary water pumping applications since many of these sites are deployed in remote areas with limited cellular coverage.  Satellite connectivity can ensure connectivity for temporary water pumping applications. Critical parameters such as river and lake levels, flow,  pump RPM , and pump run can be monitored or controlled.

Emergency SCADA Communication

Satellite communications can be a particularly good alternative in emergency monitoring. Forest fire or flood  emergencies can adversely affecting the integrity of water supply system requiring additional monitoring of water quality.

SCADALink Satellite Communications Solutions

Bentek Systems supports both LEO and GEO based satellite connectivity solutions.

The SCADALink SAT50 uses Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite technology which ensures connectivity at virtually anywhere. It does have attendant latency (60 seconds +), low bandwidth and higher data costs. This solution may be useful where the site is located where there is no view of GEO satellite.  This could be sites a very northerly elevations where there is extremely low elevation angles to GEO satellites or in very rugged terrain that there will be line of site obstruction by trees, river banks, hills, or mountains. SAT50 based systems are ideal for sites that require less frequent updates (hourly).

If there is clear line of site to a GEO satellite, our  SAT100, SAT110 and SAT140 that use GEO satellite technology is a another alternative. It  will provide reliable connectivity to site with high latency, low bandwidth with more cost effective data costs. This solution would be suitable for applications that requires updates down to 5-10 minute intervals.

In recent years, the importance of adding real-time data and alarm call outs to Water Intake Pump Station Monitoring have become more prevalent.  It helps improve the overall safety and adds another level of protection for environmental concerns. Additionally, having real-time monitoring can reduce the need for and the number of onsite staff; and reduced site visits while maintaining safety.


Modbus Communication with the SAT50 Iridium Satellite Modem


Satellite Communication technology is commonly utilized for remote site communications when there is no other practical means available such as when the site is located in areas not serviced by terrestrial communications such as dedicated line, or cellular. The site may be located in rugged terrain where line of site communication to a radio or cellular tower can obstructed by trees, hills, and mountains. Alternatively the application may be mobile so that an elevated antenna tower cannot be deployed.

GEO vs LEO Satellite Communication Technology

Satellite communications can use either Geostationary (GEO) or Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite technology.

GEO satellite systems (such as VSAT or Inmarsat) utilize Geostationary satellites located at a fixed location approximately 23,199 miles above the equator to relay data from a ground station to satellite data terminals.  The Geostationary remains fixed relative the ground station and remote data terminals; a GEO satellite terminal located at a fixed site will have the same constant view to the Geostationary satellite at all times. Remote sites located at extreme northerly or southerly latitudes will have a extremely low look angle (ie 4 degrees in Fairbanks Alaska) to the GEO satellite and thus can be easily obstructed and be unreliable.

LEO satellite systems such as Iridium or GlobalStar use a network of Low Earth Orbit Satellites (66 satellites for Iridium) orbiting at a lower altitude above the earth (483 miles for Iridium constellation).  The motion of the Iridium satellite network over the site insures a only a short period where there is no view to one of the satellites. The low altitude of LEO satellite systems provide low latency path for voice and data communications but at a higher data costs. The Iridium network includes SBD (short burst data) packet data mode that is designed for M2M, GPS tracking, and messaging applications.

High Availability Low Bandwidth Communications Applications

The SCADALink SAT50 Satellite Modem operating on the Iridium SBD network is designed for SCADA communications to remote M2M applications where cost effective but reliable low bandwidth communication is required.  This can be ideal for some remote monitoring, data retrieval  applications, or remote control applications.

The SAT50 is easy to deploy and cost effective since no large towers are required to clear obstructions.  As long as the SAT50 can see a reasonable degree of the sky, the SAT50 will communicate. Even within heavily treed areas there should be clear sky overhead. This makes the SAT50 ideal for mobile and temporary applications where the site location cannot be widely cleared of trees and foilage. As an example, pipeline applications where equipment is installed on pipeline right of ways may not have clearance from obstruction from foilage.

Modbus Protocol over the Iridium Low-Earth Orbit Satellite Network

Modbus is a REQUEST – RESPONSE Master – Slave protocol commonly used in SCADA Communications over Wireless networks.  Modbus Protocol (Modbus RTU, ASCII,  Modbus TCP) is supported by many commonly used industrial control devices including PLC, RTU, flow meters, data loggers, and smart instruments; and SCADA Host systems.

The SCADALink SAT50 supporting full bi-directional communication can support Modbus communication to  sites with these remote devices . Note the higher network latency is accounted for and configured in the setup of the SCADA Host; and the messaging frequency is low. The  Modbus register map should be packed so a single poll can transfer the required site status in a single contiguous block.  Multiple message polling of site would not be recommended. WRITE to site registers would have to be infrequent. Communications to Modbus TCP devices onsite can be supported in a Modbus Ethernet to Serial Gateway such as the SCADALink IP100 is used to for protocol conversion.

The SAT50’s support for Modbus Protocol can enable use of many common industrial controller in communications challenged remote site applications. without need for implementation of custom messaging protocols.


To learn more email us today!

1200 Baud Bell 202 Radio-Modem Replacement

radio modem replacement

1200 Baud Bell 202 Radio-Modem Replacement. There are few instances where technology deployed in the 1980’s is still around, compatible and even usable. 

In the 1980’s, 1200 Baud Bell 202 AFSK based modem systems were commonly deployed for Radio and Wireline Data Communication Systems in SCADA Systems. These systems were robust and long lasting. Many of the Bell 202 based Radio systems utilized mobile radios connected to external Bell 202 modems. Many of these systems are still in use, but they are aging and about to fail.  It is highly recommended to update them before they fail.

The following scenarios will inevitably play out: 1)The two-way radios may fail, and/or 2) the external modem may fail.

Due to product obsolescence there are no plug-in replacements available for the two-way radio or the external modem. So when a site fails, components will need to be repaired in the field or on the bench, however these repairs require expertise in analog electronics. Starting in the 90’s there has been knowledge loss due to retirement of old-time technicians specializing in analog electronics. It is now difficult to find a technicians available with the know-how to repair these legacy systems.

At SCADALink, we have had extensive experience in repair and troubleshooting of aging SCADA systems  – SCADA Communications Troubleshooting.

Emergency Field Repair

We have assisted in emergency field repairs of failing Bell 202 based systems where the 1) Radio Failed, 2) the Bell 202 Modem Failed, or 3) Modulation was out of adjustment.

Repairs were hampered by various factors including:

  • difficulty in compatibility of RF or Modulation levels with replacement equipment
  • lack of documentation of legacy equipment for maintenance
  • lack of availability of replacement equipment
  • connector problems

Network Upgrade Options

There are two ways to deal with this obsolescence problem:

1) Install New Modem Technology with 1200 Baud Bell 202 Compatibility

Systems can be replaced with integrated RF modems that have Bell 202 modulation.
… Modems with Bell 202 Compatibility

One challenge with the type of replacement is that in some installations, the higher RF output of the 25 Watt two-way radios was required to provide adequate fade margin in some data links.

2) Technology Replacement

Alternatively, the obsolete RF Systems can be replaced by new RF technology, either in the same RF band or different bands such as licensed free 900 Mhz, or cellular modem systems. 
..see Replacement Technology





Upgrade of VoIP Phone System Improves Field to Office Communication


We upgraded to the TELUS Business Connect VoIP phone system from a legacy VoIP system in order to reduce maintenance and operating costs; and to improve call quality. We  were pleasantly surprised by the improvement provided by this upgrade and wanted to share this with my Industry colleagues, especially those whose operations rely on high degree of mobile connectivity such as those in Oil and Gas Services.

Our legacy VoIP system was a mashup of  VoIP Hardware/Software,  Internet Access, and Telco Phone Lines from separate vendors. We had found that this legacy solution had higher maintenance requirements and operating costs than was available in the current market place.  After review of options, we chose TELUS Business Connect.  TELUS Business Connect is based on RingCentral VoIP Platform.  Your local telecom provider may have  the same on similar VoIP solutions.

Cost Savings, Higher Uptime, and Increase Reliability

TELUS Business Connect is a complete single vendor Cloud based VoIP solution.  All connectivity is in the Cloud. There is no VoIP Server hardware at located at our office.   TELUS Business Connect could be scaled based on the number of team members/lines.  In addition, with a single vendor offering, TELUS Business Connect would be a single point of contact for phone system technical support. Previously when we had telephone system problems we would have to contact either the VoIP Hardware/Software Provider, the Internet Provider, or even the Telco to determine the cause.

Connect Team Members via a Single Number

TELUS Business Connect’s VoIP phone system supports both VoIP hardware and  soft phones.  Softphones can operate on IPhone, Android based Smartphones, and Tablets, Laptops, and Desktops. With Business Connect, each user can have multiple VoIP handsets and soft phones associated with a single number.  Using TELUS Business Connect App on a smartphone, users can be reached on their office number if they out of their  office;  in the field, at customer sites, or at their home office via the same number.

Improve Field Communication

The Auto-Reconnect feature of the TELUS Business Connect VoIP phone systems makes for effective Field to Office Communications.  Business Connect automatically reconnects when a link drops, so there is no need to redial. This can be a godsend when field personnel needs to be connected to clients or team member during lengthy field commissioning sessions.

Another benefit of TELUS Business Connect for is the online directory  so you can easily connect to colleagues when your out of office.



Tailings Pond Level Monitoring System Using Differential GPS and Radar Level Sensor

A Canadian oil sands mining company had a requirement for real-time tailings pond water level monitoring.  The system is to provide survey quality measurement between their weekly surveys. They engaged Bentek Systems to provide a  complete solution.

Solar Powered Wireless RTU System

This monitoring system designed and fabricated as a complete turnkey assembly to insure rapid onsite deployment and minimize field costs. Solar Power System is used to power the system; with Cellular data communications is used to provide connectivity to site RTU  to the SatSCADA Server.

High Accuracy Requirements

To achieve the required measurement accuracy levels, a system was implemented using a combination of Differential GPS Transceiver (DGPS) and Radar Level Sensors.

Differential GPS with Post Processing

A DGPS transceiver was installed on the tailing barge to measure the Barge Reference GPS Level. Data from the DGPS was transmitted to DGPS Post Processing Software on SatSCADA Cloud Server in real time. The SatSCADA Server post-processed the DGPS data from the barge in addition to another DGPS data received from a GPS reference station to provide a corrected GPS Level of the Barge.  The corrected GPS level is sent back to the Data Logger on the barge.

Radar Level Sensor

A Radar Level Sensor connected to Data Logger is used to measure the distance for the Radar Level Sensor to the water line. Radar Level was chosen since Radar provides type highest accuracy and reliability through the range of operating conditions. This RLS distance combined with the GPS Reference Level is used to calculate Water Level and data logged. All data is sent periodically back up to the SatSCADA Server for archival, trending and display.

Web-Based Data Access

Users access the Water Level data via SatSCADA Web Client which can provide access through to laptop, desktop, tablets, and smartphones.




I/O Telemetry Using Satellite Based Communications

I/O Telemetry Technology is frequently used to transmit server digital (ON/OFF) or analog (4-20ma) signals between remote sites for remote control (i.e. Pump Control) or public safety signalling(i.e. Traffic, Flood, or Avalanche Warning) applications. I/O Telemetry systems are typically implemented as a point to point communications between the 2 sites via licensed or unlicensed radio.

There are times though where terrestrial communications methods such as hard wire, licensed and unlicensed radio or even cellular may be not practical or available.

In these situations,  I/O Telemetry Systems can be implemented with Satellite-based Communications using the SCADALink SatSCADA Platform. A satellite-based system deployment can eliminate the need for the construction of antenna towers or installation of repeater systems thus minimizing design and construction costs. I/O Telemetry via the SatSCADA Platform provides a mirroring of I/O signals.

I/O Telemetry using SatSCADA Platform… see more


Public Safety Warning

Warning signs for Flood, Avalanche or Road Hazard Signals may be turned on remotely. For example, a mobile flood warning sign warns drivers of the hazard partially flooded road erosion caused by torrential rain.


Use of RS485 Hub Minimizes Downtime

RS485 networks are designed to provide multi-drop serial network connection of 32 nodes at distances up to 4000 feet. Properly implemented, RS485 networks should be trouble-free, however in over 30 years in the industry we have seen common problems in RS485 networking implementations that include:

  • RS485 networks wired as star networks.

The RS-485 network specification requires nodes to be wired in a “daisy-chain” topology where each node is connected to the previous node along a single transmission line with impedance matched termination resistors at both ends of the line. Often in industrial implementations, it makes more sense to have each node wire back to a central control panel in a “Star” type topology. Star wiring can wreak havoc on RS-485 connections as each leg of the network cause reflections on the line and put termination resistors on each leg would overload the bus. The 485HUB eliminates this problem by splitting the RS-485 network into multiple individually isolated sub-networks.

  • Ground loops and common mode voltage offsets.

In installations that cover large distances or have nodes that are powered from independent power supplies, it is common for the ground potentials at each node to vary considerably. This results in common mode voltage offsets in the signal that can easily push the transmitted signal out of the receivers input range. Each port on the 485HUB is individually electrically isolated allowing the receivers to float up to the transmitter’s ground level eliminating the common mode offset as well as any noise that may be induced by the ground loop created between the nodes. This isolation also prevents large ground currents from being conducted on the signal ground connections which can damage equipment and wiring.

  • Signal reflections and noise due to improper transmission line termination.

Both far ends of an RS-485 network should be terminated with 120ohm resistors, however since only the end devices should have the termination installed most devices do not include the resistors and assume that the technician installing the device will have some resistors with him. Each Port on the 485HUB has internal termination resistors enabled by adding a wire jumper on the port’s terminal block. Internal Bias resistors can be enabled by the configuration DIP switches under the unit for use with older RS-485 drivers that require biased lines to prevent noise during a bus idle state.

  • Failure or disconnection of one node or cable segment takes down the whole network.

In a “daisy chain” network a failure of a single node can bring down the whole network, likewise a short or break in the line whether accidental or during maintenance will cause the whole network to fail. With each leg of the network isolated on its own line, these failures on a sub-network will not impede the rest of the network. In addition, the 485HUB’s integrated USB connection allows a technician to tap into the RS-485 network for maintenance of the downstream devices without having to change or disconnecting any existing wiring.

  • Bit timing problems introduced by low cost RS-232 to RS-485 converters

Converting RS-232 to RS-485 requires the synthesis of a direction signal to switch the RS-485 driver from receive to transmit. This is often done in low cost RS-485 converters by using a simple RC timer circuit. While this may get the job done for slow transactions at low baud rates it’s timing is too loose to operate effectively at speeds greater than 9600 baud. Some converters do not even have a configurable baud rate setting meaning the same time constants are used at all baud rates resulting in poor performance at any speed. The 485HUB uses internal UART’s and a microprocessor to control the timing for all ports and is capable of high-speed transactions and the fastest possible bus turnaround.

Troubleshooting problematic RS-485 installations can be quite difficult as many of the above issues can only be diagnosed using advanced tools such as oscilloscopes and protocol analyzers. These are not standard equipment for the electricians and field technicians who typically will be implementing RS-485 networks, meaning the time spent troubleshooting via trial and error can become excessive and often a specialist may have to be brought in to repair problematic installations. Costly field time, as well as production and project schedule delays, can easily be avoided by designing networks with the SCADALink 485HUB.












Satellite Based Communications Enables Tank Level Monitoring

In a recent application for a Rural Water System in Northern California, satellite communication helped achieve remote connectivity from a water storage tank site despite the site being surrounded by large redwood trees. Satellite based communications allowed easy deployment once line of site from the remote site to the satellite has determined. No large antenna structure was required. …see Application Note

Satellite Communications Superior to  Cellular/Radio for Remote Applications

In this application and other recent applications have it has been found that satellite based remote monitoring systems help alleviate potential troublesome intermittent communications in areas where there is limited terrestrial coverage. Reliable satellite based communications ensure on-time and on-budget remote monitoring systems implementation with lower chance of unexpected costs.  Frequently in  implementation of cellular based systems at sites with marginal paths, that much time may be expended to troubleshoot or improve intermittent cellular communications.  Large antenna structures may be needed. For these instances, satellite based systems can often be the best or only solution.







Dual Mode Satellite/Cellular Modem Can Ensure Reliable SCADA Connectivity

SAT120 with DIN-Rail

Cellular data connectivity is  pervasive and cost effective and seeing increasing use in SCADA Applications. Due to the nature of cellular data communications technology; cellular connectivity alone may not provide adequate reliability in critical SCADA applications; however cellular connectivity backed up by satellite connectivity can provide the necessary reliability.  Field experience with the SCADALink SAT120 and SAT130 Dual Mode Satellite/Cellular Modems with cellular as primary link with fail-over to satellite shows that dual mode connectivity can provides cost effective and high reliability solution for fixed and mobile SCADA applications.

Cellular Communication Challenges

Due to the nature of cellular data communications technology, loss of  cellular connectivity can occur due to:

  • Path Fade
  • Network Changes
  • Network Failures
  • Natural Disasters
  • Network Overload
  • Cellular Repeater Relocation

Path Fade

Cellular RF paths  can be obstructed by terrain and foliage. Many cellular based SCADA sites will not have direct line of site RF paths due to limited antenna height.  The paths will most times have a goodl signal. These RF paths can be affected by wet foliage, or atmospheric temperature inversion causing reduced cellular signal strength and connectivity loss.

Network Changes

Cellular providers will change network topology, tower configurations, and cellular service without notifying subscribers.  This can affect remote site connectivity for cellular based links.

Network Failures

Network outages can be caused by equipment failure, human error, or malicious  actions causing cellular data communications outages. The complexity of cellular networks increases chances of problems.

Natural Disaster Outages

Natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, fires, and snowstorms can damage the cellular infrastructure, affecting cellular connectivity in local and wider areas.

Network Overload

Cellular Networks can be overloaded by traffic spikes during emergency situations or special events causing cellular data communication service interruptions in given areas.

Cellular Repeater Relocation

Cellular data communication sites that  have relied on cellular signal improvement provided by by a cellular repeater may be affected when the repeater is relocated.

Satellite Connectivity Provides Availability

Satellite based connectivity on the Geosynchronous Inmarsat network provides a highly stable data link since a direct RF path will be  less affected by terrestrial obstructions and weather.  A satellite based network effectively has a lower number of hops can would have higher availability, however will have higher connectivity costs.

Dual Mode Connectivity Balances Availability & Cost

SCADALink SAT120 and SAT130  Modems with dual mode satellite/cellular connectivity can provide the best of both worlds. At sites with marginal cellular RF path, the satellite link can provide connectivity during cellular RF fading.   Most of the time when cellular connectivity is available, providing high speed and lower latency connection at lower costs.

Satellite Communications Delivers High Value in Industrial Applications

Satellite Communication - SAT100

Recent field experience with the SatSCADA Platform operating on the geosynchronous Inmarsat based Satellite Communications network has proven it to be valuable in industrial applications. It can provide connectivity for remote fixed site applications without reliable terrestrial communications; and provide ubiquitous connectivity in mobile applications. In these applications satellite connectivity was used as the sole link, or in a redundant configuration with cellular connectivity.

Connectivity and Increased Reliability for Fixed Site Applications SAT130 Solar RTU

For remote fixed site applications, the use of satellite can help improve the reliability of the field data communication. Terrestrial communications technology like private radio systems or cellular unavailable or  be unreliable due to the terrain and foliage obstructions, or due to lack of coverage.  Use of SatSCADA satellite connectivity can reduce system deployment costs as radio towers were not  required. The small size of SatsSCADA Terminal facilitated rapid deployment and simple field installation.

Field services costs and time were reduced  due to the elimination of  the need to troubleshoot site communications problems due to unreliable terrestrial communications.  Comparative experience with remote sites found field services for communications troubleshooting for satellite connected sites were nil compared to terrestrial means. SatSCADA RTU Packages



Ubiquitous Coverage for Mobile Application

For applications with Mobile and Portable equipment such as used in well testing, water transfer, chemical injection and bulk fuel/chemical delivery;  Satellite combined with Cellular connectivity can enable near 100% ubitiqous coverage; and allow for rapid deployment. Field experience has shown that satellite connectivity helps ensure reliable connectivity in areas of marginal cell coverage. Reliable connectivity for mobile applications is especially important in Oil and Gas Services where operations are frequently in areas that have limited or no cellular coverage.

Industrial Iot Gateway-Well Testing & Gas Delivery Remote Transaction Logging


Benefits of satellite communications for mobile applications include improved real-time access of field operations, improved data accuracy and reporting.  Satellite connectivity can provide more timely invoicing where delivery volumes are required.

About SatSCADA

The SatSCADA Platform include the SAT100, SAT110, SAT120, and SAT130 Terminals connected to the SatSCADA Cloud Based SCADA Server.