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How to Monitor Your Tower Lights (Full Transcript & Prices)

By Andrew Erickson

May 15, 2024


At DPS, tower light monitoring is a project type we handle routinely. This type of monitoring is crucial for ensuring safety and compliance with FAA/FCC regulations, particularly for structures like radio towers, wind turbines, and tall buildings. These require obstruction lighting that must be constantly monitored against failure.

Today, let's look at an online chat conversation that unfolded between a DPS engineer and a curious client looking to better understand how to keep a watchful eye on their remote tower lights.

Application diagram showing Beacon A and Beacon B being monitored by a NetDog RTU at a tower site
As shown in this proposed solution diagram, a NetDog RTU with current transducers is able to monitor the status of tower beacon/obstruction lighting.

This real-world example perfectly illustrates how a bit of savvy tech can simplify monitoring tasks that might seem complicated at first glance for tower owners.

You usually only need one monitoring box per tower site

The dialogue kicks off with the client asking a pretty detailed question about setting up monitoring for their tower lights. They're trying to figure out whether they need multiple devices to make sure the lights are working correctly, both in the dark of night and the light of day:

Client: "So to monitor my tower I would need the AlphaMax to have current sensing from the marker and beacons, and it would talk to the NetDog G2 which would check to see if it was supposed to be dark and if so send an email or text message to let us know that the current used was not as much as the light would use if it was in operation?"

Jared, our DPS engineer, steps in to simplify things. He explains that the client might not need multiple devices. A single NetDog unit equipped with a current transducer would do the trick.

This setup can detect if the lights aren't drawing power when they should be (either all the time or only at night, depending on the particular light), and then alert your staff.

Jared (DPS Engineer): "You would only need one device. But essentially yes. Something like a NetDog would have a current transducer tied to it, and around your light's cable. If there is no current, an alarm will be triggered and notify you."

Daylight sensors are important inputs to handle changing seasons

As they delve deeper, the client considers adding more sophistication to their system by incorporating sensors to detect light conditions, which would help determine if the environment is indeed dark when the lights fail to draw power.

"So i would need two transducers. I guess a day-night sensor would show 0 volts when it was dark and a positive voltage when it was getting daylight?"

Jared confirms that approach and mentions that DPS might not directly manufacture the day/night sensor, but they can certainly sell one as part of the system if needed.

Photo of a large antenna tower from the ground
Most antenna towers are tall enough to require remote monitoring of their required beacon & obstruction lighting systems.

How Much Does Tower Monitoring Cost?

Nearing the end of their chat, the client asks about the costs associated with setting up the monitoring solution. Jared provides a ballpark figure, which includes all necessary components to get a complete monitoring system up and running.

"So with everything we've discussed, to give you a rough estimate, the price would probably be around $1200-$1500. That would include a small RTU, an AC power adapter, and two current transducers."

As you can see from this conversation, it's clear that setting up a quality tower light monitoring system can be straightforward and fit within a reasonable budget.

Choose an RTU with the correct power voltage

Power supply discussions often pop up when setting up monitoring equipment, especially considering the diverse power needs of different sites.

Jared, our DPS engineer, brings up a crucial question about the available power at the client's site. This influences your choice between AC and DC power supply options.

"Do you have any type of DC power available at the site already? Like -24/48V? Or is it just commercial power?"

The client responds that, while the current setup at the nursery might only have standard commercial power available, adapting the setup to include different power supplies might become required.

This flexibility is important because DPS equipment like the RTUs usually operate on DC power, though AC power supplies are also available for them.

"At the moment the building is being used as a plant nursery. I think i may have 120/240 available. Power supplies could be added. But for sake of this, just 120v 15amp."

Set your alarm conditions to get alerts at the exact right moments

When it comes to monitoring critical equipment, it's not just about whether an alarm goes off. You need to know about "when" and "how".

Jared explained to the client how they can set up "alarm qualifiers," which ensure that alerts are triggered only under specific conditions. This prevents false alarms and ensures that alerts are meaningful and require action.

"Sure. You'll have the ability to add 'alarm qualifiers' to each point. We call them 'Qualification Times'. So, for example, an alarm qualifier could be '30s in an alarm state' before notifying."

This feature is especially useful in environments where conditions might fluctuate briefly without indicating a real problem. By setting a delay before an alarm is triggered, you ensure that the system only alerts you when there's a genuine issue that needs attention.

DPS will help you build your perfect-fit tower light monitoring system

This detailed conversation between Jared and the client not only sheds light on the technical capabilities of DPS Telecom's equipment but also underscores our commitment to providing tailored solutions. Whether you're dealing with tower lighting systems or another critical infrastructure, DPS has the technology and expertise to streamline your monitoring needs.

Whether you're dealing with power supply considerations, configuring precise alarm conditions, or simply needing a robust monitoring system, DPS Telecom is equipped to handle your specific needs with expertise and care.

Let us help you set up a system that is both effective and highly customized to meet the unique challenges of your operational environment.

Thinking about creating or upgrading your remote monitoring system?
Give us a call at 1-800-693-0351 or email sales@dpstele.com

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson is an Application Engineer at DPS Telecom, a manufacturer of semi-custom remote alarm monitoring systems based in Fresno, California. Andrew brings more than 17 years of experience building site monitoring solutions, developing intuitive user interfaces and documentation, and opt...