Observation wheel demonstrates safety with a view

Case study: Automation’s attention to safety, reliability, and ease of implementation at the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye Observation Wheel.

By Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering June 5, 2018

Even when motion control is used for fun, considerations such as safety, reliability, and ease of implementation remain, as the automation equipment implemented at Coca-Cola Orlando Eye Observation Wheel demonstrates.

In a media and analysts tour during the 2018 ARC Forum, Bill Kivler, vice president, facilities and engineering, I-Drive 360, provided application information. Kivler’s prior experience included 23 years of operations experience at Disney World.

Industry and facility type

The entertainment industry observation wheel, the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye, is a 400-ft tall ride that operates 365 days per year, 10 a.m. to midnight, with 1500 passenger per hour capacity in 30 3-ton air-conditioned capsules. It opened in 2015. Each car holds 15 passengers for a 22-minute ride. Intamin Amusement Rides, based in Liechtenstein, built the Orlando Eye and the London Eye.

Scope of the project and goals

Passenger safety was foremost; correcting load shifts in each to maintain stability of each. Reliability and availability were important; downtime is lost revenue, so maintenance and self-diagnostic capability were critical. AWC Inc., a Siemens partner with the automation provider, provided local service and support.

Automation, controls, equipment

Motion control, safety, and related operator controls and power included integrated automation and motion control with drives and wired and wireless communications, Power-over-Ethernet (PoE), advanced programmable logic controllers (PLCs), TUV-certified fail-safe software controller, redundant PCs, operating system, radio voice communications, integrated safety and cybersecurity features, and remote input/output (I/O). 

Project challenges

For the Orlando Eye’s controls, including capsule motion control, Intamin deployed PLC software and PLCs on dual, redundant PCs, each with automatic failover. The software controller has functional independence from the Microsoft Windows 10 operating system so operation continues during a Windows restart or failure. PCs reside in the control booth; three trained technicians provide human oversight of the wheel’s operation. Operators have full wheel views, inside and out, via video in each capsule and from overlapping fields of view from cameras mounted on the wheel’s superstructure. Operators have radio voice communications with the person loading passengers into each module.

The remote I/O reside in a small panel in each passenger capsule, communicating with the PLC controls over an industrial Ethernet network via industrial wireless technology. These provide local motion control for 14 motor drives, arranged in a 7×7 counter-opposed configuration. This design minimizes capsule motion. The wheel operates using a 7 kW electric motor, which has two redundant backup generators for immediate switchover, should local utility power fail.

Remote I/O modules in each passenger capsule communicate with the master PLC software controller via an industrial wireless LAN (WLAN) comprised of IEEE 802.11n radio access points and client modules transmitting over an industrial Ethernet protocol. (IEEE 802.11n is a higher-throughput subsection of the international standard for wireless local area networks (WLANS)).

Resolving challenges

E-stop functionality is a click away, backstopped by automated pre-sets if certain conditions occur. The control booth personnel monitor the PLC software for a wide range of operating parameters, including wheel and capsule speeds, motion control drive status, capsule weight, motion, and A/C temperature, and others.

The software controller used is the first TÜV-certified fail-safe software controller. It includes integrated safety features, certified in accordance with International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 61508 Functional Safety of Electrical/Electronic/Programmable Safety-Related Systems, for remote I/O communications for local control of the drives on each capsule.

The wireless components combine reliability and security in a solid-state, rugged aluminum package well-suited for the Orlando Eye’s application. Using multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) technology to multiply the capacity of radio channels, they can achieve bandwidth throughputs of up to 450 Mbit/s, more than enough for the wheel’s requirements.

Access points and client modules have PoE to minimize cabling. Protection against unauthorized access is provided by advanced firmware mechanisms for user authentication and data encryption. The Orlando Eye safeguards its wireless and wireline networks with a layered, defense-in-depth cybersecurity program.

Project metrics, numbers

Software engineering for the project was performed in the automation vendor’s development software, providing a common framework for component programming with a drag-and-drop interface and libraries of software code, which saved Intamin weeks of controls programming time in the Orlando Eye’s development. Intamin engineers and service technicians can remotely dial into the software controller and work with Kivler’s team to provide troubleshooting guidance and address any operational issues.

Lessons learned, advice

"With multiple vendors tied into your infrastructure, you have an integration nightmare, with much more potential for sub-optimal performance of your overall systems," Kivler said. "Of course, when something goes wrong, troubleshooting the root cause becomes one big game of finger-pointing."

With the gear used, Kivler added, "Everything is so well integrated and self-diagnostics in the components are so deep and wide, problems get resolved in a small fraction of the time, compared to what a multivendor environment would require, with all the guessing and trial-and-error going on."

Update: On May 9, the attraction was renamed ICON Orlando.

Edited with notes and information provided by Siemens from a February media and analyst tour, by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media, mhoske@cfemedia.com.

Keywords: Entertainment motion control, safety

Motion controls at Coca-Cola Orlando Eye Observation Wheel

Weeks of programming time were saved with drag and drop software with libraries.

Motion control and safety are via wireless communications.

Consider this

If industrial wireless is used for critical motion control, what could it do in your applications?

ONLINE extra

For an earlier look at Siemens automation for entertainment, see two linked articles below about motion controls inside Cirque du Soleil’s KÀ and Walt Disney Imagineering and NASA space travel.

Siemens has more information about its products 

IEEE wireless communication standards information is available.