Definitions

remote terminal

Remote Terminal Unit

An RTU, or Remote Terminal Unit is a microprocessor controlled electronic device which interfaces objects in the physical world to a distributed control system or SCADA system by transmitting telemetry data to the system and/or altering the state of connected objects based on control messages received from the system.

Architecture and communications

A typical RTU has communications interfaces for media (usually serial (RS232, RS485, RS422), Ethernet) and for protocols (Modbus, DNP3, ICCP, etc.) connect high current capacity relays to a digital output (or "DO") board to switch power on and off to devices in the field. The DO board switches voltage to the coil in the relay, which closes the high current contacts, which completes the power circuit to the device. Analog inputs are usually 24 V with a current range between 4 and 20 milliamperes (4-20 mA); the RTU or host system then translates this into the appropriate units such as gallons of water left or temperature before presenting the data to the user via the HMI or MMI.

Software and logic control

Modern RTUs are usually capable of executing simple programs autonomously without involving the host computers of the DCS or SCADA system to simplify deployment, and to provide redundancy for safety reasons. A RTU in a modern water management system will typically have code to modify its behavior when physical override switches on the RTU are toggled during maintenance by maintenance personnel. This is done for safety reasons; a miscommunication between the system operators and the maintenance personnel could cause system operators to mistakenly enable power to a water pump when it is being replaced, for example.

Comparison with other control systems

RTUs, PLCs and DCS are increasingly beginning to overlap in responsibilities, and many vendors sell RTUs with PLC-like features and vice versa. The industry has standardized on the IEC 61131-3 functional block language for creating programs to run on RTUs and PLCs, although nearly all vendors also offer proprietary alternatives and associated development environments.

In addition, some vendors now supply RTUs with comprehensive functionality pre-defined, sometimes with PLC extensions and/or interfaces for configuration. See the MultiSmart pump station managerfor a water/wastewater example

In some applications Dataloggers are used in similar applications.

Applications

  • Oil and Gas remote instrumentation monitoring, (offshore platforms, onshore oilwells).
  • Networks of remote pump stations (wastewater collection, or for water supply).
  • Hydro-graphic monitoring and control, (water supply, reservoirs, sewerage systems).
  • Environmental monitoring systems (pollution, air quality, emissions monitoring).
  • Minesite monitoring applications.
  • Protection supervision and data logging of Power transmission network

See also

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