There are more than 2,000 unmanned operating oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico, and, according to Bob Schena, CEO of mesh networking company Rajant, the majority of them have no active communications on board. That’s a serious problem if conditions go south, like they did on the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig in 2010. Without real-time communications, there’s no way to warn officials quickly if something goes wrong, or to implement a coordinated emergency response plan.
Because of missing network infrastructure, many oil platforms in the Gulf may be unprepared for a disaster. However, Schena thinks there’s a solution to the communications void, and he believes his company has the technology to enable it.
Rajant is demonstrating something it calls kinetic mesh networking. If you think of mobility on land, it’s usually the smartphones or other CE devices that are mobile, but the telephone poles or wireless access points are fixed in place. With kinetic mesh networking, the "telephone poles" move too, or in this case, the oil rigs in the Gulf. Rajant proposes to turn those rigs into active nodes inside a large wireless network. Each node would further the network’s connectivity and extend the blanket of communications access.
Once you have the broadband infrastructure in, you’re not only able to do elements of security – you know video and sonars and radars – but you’re able to do condition monitoring, leak detection, things like that so that before leaks or failures get worse, the operator or coast guard, regulators can be notified in real time very quickly before something gets out of hand.
According to Rajant, its kinetic mesh technology also offers significant reliability benefits because the network operating system uses software to switch between radio frequencies for the best performance possible. Rajant network radios support multiple frequencies, and Schena claims the company’s software can pick the best one in under two milliseconds, alternating seamlessly between frequencies as conditions change.
Although Rajant hasn’t deployed technology in the Gulf of Mexico yet, Schena notes that the company has met with members of Congress about the need for legislation around oil rig communications. Rajant has also scheduled trial demonstrations of its kinetic mesh networking system with partners at an event planned for early March. Ironically, the event will take place in the Arizona desert. Not much water there, but plenty of land for testing out Rajant’s mobile gear.