IIT Roorkee makes drones to monitor rail tracks: Happy train journey

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The drones are currently being technically examined on the tracks around the Uttarakhand town.
The drones are currently being technically examined on the tracks around the Uttarakhand town.

New Delhi : There is positive news coming from the department of Indian railways. Accordingly, the railways will soon start deploying drones to monitor rail tracks. This step could help the national transporter dive forward on the safety aspect which remains the special concern for the government.

As per the aforesaid initiative of the telecom industry and the railways, Indian Institute of Technology in Roorkee has developed the drones which are currently being technically examined on the tracks around the Uttarakhand town.

“The Indian Railways is in the advanced stages of considering deploying unmanned aerial vehicles to monitor rail tracks using the technology developed by IIT-Roorkee,” said Anurag Vibhuti, deputy director of TCOE India.

It has been learnt that the drones will work alongside and may eventually replace the conventional system, which makes use of either human inspectors or trolleys pulled by workers and is a tough job during extreme weather and in remote places. It is often heard that most train accidents take place due to human error and improper monitoring of tracks. Use of drones to monitor tracks and modern technologies to analyse the data they capture is expected to reduce the chances of error.

The railways also has plans to expand the use of drones to more functions, including monitoring of projects and other infrastructure as well as relief and rescue operations and crowd management. The best part is that it has already tested the devices for project monitoring in some places.

“It has given directions to zonal railways to procure such (drone) cameras. This is in line with the government’s desire to use technology including artificial intelligence to enhance safety and efficiency in train operations,” said RD Bajpai, a spokesperson for the Indian Railways. The Jabalpur, Bhopal and Kota divisions already used this technology for monitoring railway works, he added.

“For IIT-Roorkee, the next stage of the project is utilising artificial intelligence and Big Data to analyse the images and information captured by the drones and make the monitoring work more real-time to predict faults on tracks”, Vibhuti said.

A faculty member at IITRoorkee and coordinator for the project at the institute, Dharmendra Singh, said the UAV-based monitoring system is cost effective and easily implementable. “Our system makes use of drones, which capture videos as well as still images of railway tracks,” he said. These images are processed to find various kinds of faults as well as ensure proper working of the tracks.

The study is in pilot mode and the team had already analysed the gauge distance (the distance between two rail tracks) from the images captured by the drones, using various computer vision and image processing techniques. “Further, we are doing a check for components of the railway tracks like fishplates, fasteners, sleepers, etc. to ensure that no component is missing,” said Singh.

This method includes the automated task of monitoring railway tracks and their component and analysing the images using computer-vision technology. “This is highly accurate and precise in detecting faults on the railway track,” Singh said. “It is safe to say that our system can greatly reform the present methods being employed for railway track maintenance.”