Science and Technology News

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Electronic beacons track pallets

by Staff Sgt. Patrick Harrower
60th Air Mobility Public Affairs


12/3/2012 - TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- They can be seen everywhere a service member travels. They can have a month's worth of water stored on them in Afghanistan or form the walls of a shack in Haiti. They have been used to transport thousands of vehicles in the Department of Defense or just reutilized as makeshift flooring for a tent on a forward-operating base. They are the 463L cargo pallet and up until recently, there was no way to track them.

There are only 124,000 of these pallets in the Department of Defense, costing approximately $1,200 each. The pallets are not being produced anymore, so it has become critical to take care of the ones in the inventory and track them as they move around the world.

The Airmen from 60th Aerial Port Squadron cargo net and pallet section spent the last week attaching radio frequency identification trackers to 3,000 pallets. Travis is the second test base for the RFIDs and will track them throughout Air Mobility Command and Pacific Air Forces.

"We will test the trackers for nine months and, if everything goes good, we will install them on pallets across the entire DoD," said Tech. Sgt. Creighton King, AMC. "The goal is to find wherever a pallet was last seen so we can recover it. The RFIDs will allow us to maintain tracking and inventory control of our pallet supply."

The trackers don't even have to be individually scanned, said Airman 1st Class Daniel Hall, 60th APS cargo net and pallet section technician. Due to the radio frequency they transmit, their tracking number can be located up to 300 yards away with their computer systems.

"There is even an automatic scanner that picks them up when they arrive on base via truck," Hall said. "Then we know exactly where every pallet is as we send them out to places like Guam, Hickam and PACAF."

Because the pallets travel so much and are frequently moved between aircraft and hangars via forklifts, they had to be installed to be tough, Hall said.

The Airmen removed a small portion of paint on each pallet before applying a primer. They then applied an epoxy to the tracker and used tape in between. The trackers can withstand 3,000 pounds of force with this technique.

"We want to be able to track a pallet no matter where it goes," King said. "A pallet can go to the (Area of Responsibility), a FOB or to (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and we will know exactly where it is."

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