Remote maintenance with the Red Case
When ships and their technologies become more and more complex and the crews on board cannot have every specific expertise, we are faced with a challenge: Who can reliably operate, maintain and - in the worst case - confidently repair the systems?
On board of a vessel or submarine, there can always be problems and defects that cannot be solved with the available means or the knowledge of the crew. Therefore, other ways must be found to ensure the smooth functioning of all systems. To do this, the ship can head to the next port and wait for an expert – which means interrupting the mission. At best, this is inconvenient for the crew, but at worst, it jeopardizes its safety and the legitimacy of a mission.
One system, two components
A reliable RMS (Remote Maintenance System) provides the necessary expertise on board as remote maintenance via telepresence, anytime and anywhere. It consists of two units: the Mobile Maintenance Unit, a red case on board the ship containing a router, two cameras, laser pointer, notebook, DECT telephone and headset. And the LBU (Land Based Unit), a suitably equipped base station on land. The LBU is permanently installed as a workstation in the arsenal.
Remote maintenance can be used to establish a connection from the ship to the base station. "The RMS has various interfaces, a serial and an Ethernet LAN interface, a bidirectional audio channel and a video interface," says Andreas Lonkai, Product Manager at ATLAS ELEKTRONIK. Thanks to the cameras, which allow the experts from the arsenal to show the people on board exactly what they need to do by means of laser pointers, the LBU personnel can guide the crew through a repair. This works so well that it can also be used to solve problems that require the exclusive knowledge of specialized professionals.
Reliable and safe: problem solving at a distance
However, the Red Case is not only used in the event of malfunctions or defects. In addition to troubleshooting, it is also essential for diagnostics, maintenance work and repair support. Lonkai sums up: "The benefits of the RMS remote maintenance system are particularly noticeable when it is impractical for experts to travel. In overseas operations, when there are long travel distances to get to the site the RMS can prevent long interruptions." The COVID19 pandemic also demonstrated this. As for a long time, shore leave was not possible for Marines, experts could not have come on board easily.
For a smooth operation, a bandwidth of only 256kb per second is needed as well as a stable satellite connection, and a separate network for maintenance tasks – but in a pinch, a long drum with LAN cable and, if necessary, an amplifier will do. In the future, the use of VR glasses is also conceivable.
Because the RMS uses onboard crypto devices to encrypt the connection to the Naval Arsenal and only accesses onboard systems when the crew actively connects it, unauthorized access from the outside is impossible. Regarding RMS security, our product expert says: "With current technologies, these types of connections are impossible to crack. So an enemy could not sabotage remote maintenance, but at most disrupt (jam) it by sending jamming signals so strong that no connection is established at all."
However, no matter how technically sophisticated a remote maintenance system is, well-trained people on and off board remain the linchpin of any troubleshooting and maintenance effort.