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Re: [TowerTalk] ma550 question

To: "Jim Jarvis" <>, <>
Subject: Re: [TowerTalk] ma550 question
From: Jim Lux <>
Date: Thu, 14 Sep 2006 16:26:22 -0700
List-post: <>
At 11:22 AM 9/14/2006, Jim Jarvis wrote:

>The argument for the MA550 is completely aesthetic, in my mind.
>The real question is whether, if motorized, one could convince
>zoning to rate safety based on a retracted tower.  It would be
>easy to have windspeed monitored, and store the antenna nested,
>when not in use.

This would be fine for safety, if safety is defined as "minimizing 
probability of expensive damage to the equipment being protected", 
where the maximum downside exposure is the cost of the equipment.
It probably wouldn't be appropriate for life safety, or the property 
of others, unless the windspeed threshold were set ridicuously low 
and the "automatic lowering" system were suitably redundant and safeguarded.

Here's a scenario. Light breeze of 10-15 mi/hr at ground level with 
occasional 25 mi/hr gusts as a thunderstorm approaches.. tower stays 
up because the windspeed threshold is set at, say, 35 
mi/hr.  Downburst with 70 mi/hr gust comes, folds tower over.  This 
might be fairly unlikely, but you'd have to go through a bunch of 
work to prove it.

This is hardly a one in a million probability, by the way. What 
you're really proposing is that the likely time between the wind 
reaching one speed (your threshold) and it reaching the failure load 
is less than the time to retract the antenna.  As it happens, there 
is a fairly large body of research on this, so you could do an 
analysis that would give you a probability of failure. Say it takes 2 
minutes to lower and stow your tower. You'd want to know what the 
probability is that a gust of, say, 90 mi/hr would occur less than 2 
minutes after a gust of, say, 30 mi/hr.

Then, the question would be what's an acceptable failure 
probability.. I'd venture that the city might be happy with something 
like a 1 failure in 100 years kind of probability. You'd combine the 
odds of a 90 mi/hr gust occuring (which is fairly low) with the odds 
of it not being preceded by a trigger gust.

Other questions that would be asked:
What happens if anemometer fails?
How would know if anemometer is failed, vs just no wind?
Can the tower be retracted under load?
After being triggered to automatically lower, how long will it stay down?

This could all be done, and a system designed to do it 
reliably.  It's not a lot different than the kinds of things used for 
rocket launches and to assist air traffic controllers.  However, it 
would almost certainly cost more than just buying a stronger tower.

For more reading, just google for "extreme wind gust statistics" is a paper 
talking about just this sort of application (for auto feathering of 
wind generators, among other things) is a better 
version of the same thing.  The author proposes that the "waiting 
time distribution" is a power law.

This one might be interesting:

>  I would anticipate a topmast, placing a 3 el
>steppIR @ 65'.  Height would be 'tuned' appropriate to the band
>in use.  So nesting storage could be a normal event.
>You'd still need a PE evaluation to get the permit, but it would
>be a significantly more robust result.

and, once someone bit the bullet and paid for the analysis, it 
wouldn't be too hard to extend it to other towers and locations, if 
the regulatory environment would accept it.  This is a pretty 
standard sort of thing for the design of tall buildings and bridges 
(and construction cranes and ski lifts) which all deal with 
windloads.  Some bridges and buildings use active damping of wind 
induced vibration, and they have redundancy systems, etc.  I suspect 
that these things aren't build to a "standard code", but make use of 
the "or if it can be shown safe by engineering analysis" kinds of 
exception. Ski lifts are typically regulated under different rules, 
for instance.  Forking out the massive bucks for the engineering and 
the systems probably isn't a problem with a $100M bridge, but might 
be a bit of a problem for a $10K ham antenna.

However, maybe you could get someone to do it as a PhD 
thesis.  Colorado State has a program that deals with wind 
effects(, and there's a 
very well known firm in the field (Cermak Peterka Petersen) in that 
area (Ft. Collins) too.

Jim, W6RMK 


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