Advance Safety Drones

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Advance Safety Drones

Postby bostontrainguy » Mon Feb 05, 2018 9:40 pm

Considering all of the recent rail accidents, I am wondering if we have the technology to send advance drones out ahead of trains that can analyse the conditions ahead of a train and notify the crew if a truck is on a crossing, or a switch is aligned incorrectly, or a sharp curve is ahead, etc. Could this be a possibility?

I know it sounds a bit fanciful but could it be done? Does the technology exist or could it be developed? The cost would be minuscule compared to the cost of these accidents and the PR hit that Amtrak is taking.

http://gpsworld.com/faa-pathfinder-test ... il-tracks/
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Re: Advance Safety Drones

Postby David Benton » Mon Feb 05, 2018 11:20 pm

I would think for the same money , you could have permanent cameras on every cp point and road crossing. Accessible by train control and the engineers of trains in the area.
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Re: Advance Safety Drones

Postby 8th Notch » Tue Feb 06, 2018 12:02 am

bostontrainguy wrote:Considering all of the recent rail accidents, I am wondering if we have the technology to send advance drones out ahead of trains that can analyse the conditions ahead of a train and notify the crew if a truck is on a crossing, or a switch is aligned incorrectly, or a sharp curve is ahead, etc. Could this be a possibility?

I know it sounds a bit fanciful but could it be done? Does the technology exist or could it be developed? The cost would be minuscule compared to the cost of these accidents and the PR hit that Amtrak is taking.

http://gpsworld.com/faa-pathfinder-test ... il-tracks/


So what if something happens after the drone passes but before the train reaches the location? Look how long it took to get PTC in place (still a work in progress) never mind having drones run in front of trains...
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Re: Advance Safety Drones

Postby mtuandrew » Tue Feb 06, 2018 12:20 am

BNSF is beating you to it: http://fortune.com/2015/05/29/bnsf-drone-program/

That said, a drone preceding each train isn’t an entirely bad idea.
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Re: Advance Safety Drones

Postby electricron » Tue Feb 06, 2018 3:01 am

How long can these small drones remain in the air? Can they remain in the air over 49 hours?
Can they travel at speeds up to 79 mph, or 150 mph on the NEC to remain ahead of the Acela trains?
I don't think they can do either. If they could, who is going to pilot or control it? The sole engineer should be concentrating on running the train, the conductors should be concentrating on serving the passengers and the train. We're going to need another employee on the train, and that's not going to be cheap.
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Re: Advance Safety Drones

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Tue Feb 06, 2018 7:53 am

Considering that the Drones used by the Air Force in Afghanistan are piloted from Nellis AFB (quite unclassified) NV, the control need not be from the train itself.

Flip side though, could have a drone with existing "civilian" technology been able to detect how that switch at Kayce was aligned?
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Re: Advance Safety Drones

Postby bostontrainguy » Tue Feb 06, 2018 9:36 am

When the Acela first ran, they had helicopters running out in front of them.
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Re: Advance Safety Drones

Postby bostontrainguy » Tue Feb 06, 2018 9:43 am

8th Notch wrote:
bostontrainguy wrote:Considering all of the recent rail accidents, I am wondering if we have the technology to send advance drones out ahead of trains that can analyse the conditions ahead of a train and notify the crew if a truck is on a crossing, or a switch is aligned incorrectly, or a sharp curve is ahead, etc. Could this be a possibility?

I know it sounds a bit fanciful but could it be done? Does the technology exist or could it be developed? The cost would be minuscule compared to the cost of these accidents and the PR hit that Amtrak is taking.

http://gpsworld.com/faa-pathfinder-test ... il-tracks/


So what if something happens after the drone passes but before the train reaches the location? Look how long it took to get PTC in place (still a work in progress) never mind having drones run in front of trains...


They would run just ahead of a train adjusted for the speed and stopping distance necessary to stop the train if there was a problem ahead. Compared to PTC, drones could start running tomorrow if approved by the powers-that-be.
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Re: Advance Safety Drones

Postby 8th Notch » Tue Feb 06, 2018 10:34 am

While I’m for anything that will help improve safety, drones still can’t account for much more then PTC will. I can see using them for occasional patrol and security however running one in front of every train is not feasible.
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Re: Advance Safety Drones

Postby electricron » Tue Feb 06, 2018 11:10 am

Gilbert B Norman wrote:Considering that the Drones used by the Air Force in Afghanistan are piloted from Nellis AFB (quite unclassified) NV, the control need not be from the train itself.
Flip side though, could have a drone with existing "civilian" technology been able to detect how that switch at Kayce was aligned?


USA drone Gray Eagle costs about $21 million each. 152 planned to be built.
Crew: 0
Length: 28 ft (8.53 m)
Wingspan: 56 ft (17 m)
Height: 6.9 ft (2.1 m)
Max. takeoff weight: 3,600 lb (1,633 kg)
Powerplant: 1 × Thielert Centurion 1.7 Heavy-Fuel Engine, 165 HP
Maximum speed: 167 knots (192 mph; 309 km/h)
Endurance: 25 hours
Service ceiling: 29,000 ft (8839.2 m)

This one is fast enough for HSR trains. :)

USAF drone Reapers cost about $17 million each. Over 163 have been built
Crew: 0 onboard, 2 in ground station
Length: 36 ft 1 in (11 m)
Wingspan: 65 ft 7 in (20 m)
Height: 12 ft 6 in (3.81 m)
Empty weight: 4,901 lb (2,223 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 10,494 lb (4,760 kg)
Fuel capacity: 4,000 lb (1,800 kg)
Payload: 3,800 lb (1,700 kg)
Internal: 800 lb (360 kg)
External: 3,000 lb (1,400 kg)
Powerplant: 1 × Honeywell TPE331-10 turboprop, 900 hp (671 kW) with Digital Electronic Engine Control (DEEC)
Maximum speed: 300 mph; 260 kn (482 km/h)
Cruise speed: 194 mph; 169 kn (313 km/h)
Range: 1,151 mi; 1,852 km (1,000 nmi)
Endurance: 14 hours fully loaded
Service ceiling: 50,000 ft (15,000 m)
Operational altitude: 25,000 ft (7.5 km)

This one is fast enough for HSR trains. :)

USA and USAF drone Predator costs about $4 million each. 360 have been built.
Crew: none on-board
Length: 27 ft (8.22 m)
Wingspand: 48.7 ft (14.8 m); MQ-1B Block 10/15: 55.25 ft (16.84 m))
Height: 6.9 ft (2.1 m)
Wing area: 123.3 sq ft (11.5 m2)
Aspect ratio: 19.0
Empty weight: 1,130 lb (512 kg)
Loaded weight: 2,250 lb (1,020 kg)
Max. takeoff weight: 2,250 lb (1,020 kg)
Powerplant: 1 × Rotax 914F turbocharged four-cylinder engine, 115 hp (86 kW) (4.8 kW redundant/6.4hp)
Maximum speed: 135 mph (117 knots, 217 km/h)
Cruise speed: 81–103 mph (70–90 knots, 130–165 km/h)
Stall speed: 62 mph (54 knots, 100 km/h) dependent on aircraft weight
Range: 675 nmi (675 mi or 1,100 km)
Endurance: 24 hours
Service ceiling: 25,000 ft (7,620 m)

This one is too slow for the NEC, but is fast enough for 79 mph max speed trains everywhere else. The price is far more reasonable. :-D

USN drone (X-47 research) costs about $400 million each. 2 have been built.
Crew: None aboard (semi-autonomous operation)
Length: 38.2 ft (11.63 m)
Wingspan: 62.1 ft extended/30.9 ft folded[63] (18.92 m/9.41 m)
Height: 10.4 ft (3.10 m)
Wing area: 953.6 ft2 (88.59 m2)
Empty weight: 14,000 lb (6,350 kg)
Max. takeoff weight: 44,567 lb (20,215 kg)
Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney F100-220U turbofan
Maximum speed: Subsonic
Cruise speed: Mach 0.9+ (high subsonic)
Range: 2,100+ NM (3,889+ km)
Service ceiling: 42,000 ft (12,800 m)

This one is just too fast and too expensive for track inspections. :(

How many would Amtrak need to place one of these in front of all the trains running everyday everywhere across the country? Amtrak operates more than 300 trains every day across the country. 300 x $4 million = $1.2 Billion. And that's not including the labor costs for a minimum of 900 operators Amtrak would need to run these 300 drones three 8 hour shifts every day, and more so they so they all can have weekends and holidays off.
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Re: Advance Safety Drones

Postby Motorman » Tue Feb 06, 2018 11:41 am

I can't believe it...
In times of computerized interlockings, and PTC or ATC, you're really talking about securing railwaylines with Drones???

Sorry, but that's way too much for me.

Okay, well, it's the US... :wink:
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Re: Advance Safety Drones

Postby MCL1981 » Tue Feb 06, 2018 11:59 am

Drones are one of my hobbies. I do not see it being practical in any way. I also think it's a little excessive. How many trains make trips down main lines each day? And how many crash due a track obstruction or switch error? And of those, how many would a drone be able to detect? By the time you're done with the math, it will no longer be a good idea.
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Re: Advance Safety Drones

Postby mtuandrew » Tue Feb 06, 2018 12:00 pm

Motorman wrote:I can't believe it...
In times of computerized interlockings, and PTC or ATC, you're really talking about securing railwaylines with Drones???

Sorry, but that's way too much for me.

Okay, well, it's the US... :wink:

We do things different here :P

And why is it a bad idea? Cheaper than a roadrailer crew, and no need to shut down the line while it’s under inspection. One per train is excessive, but one per day of operation is not.
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Re: Advance Safety Drones

Postby MCL1981 » Tue Feb 06, 2018 12:24 pm

mtuandrew wrote:
Motorman wrote:One per train is excessive, but one per day of operation is not.

One per day is not changing anything then, and is not currently feasible. Given the technology requirements and operational factors of procuring and operating a UAS like this, which is current completely illegal anyway, once per day, it would be a non-starter. Send a guy down the line in a hi-rail truck. Done.
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Re: Advance Safety Drones

Postby electricron » Tue Feb 06, 2018 12:52 pm

MCL1981 wrote:
mtuandrew wrote:
Motorman wrote:One per train is excessive, but one per day of operation is not.

One per day is not changing anything then, and is not currently feasible. Given the technology requirements and operational factors of procuring and operating a UAS like this, which is current completely illegal anyway, once per day, it would be a non-starter. Send a guy down the line in a hi-rail truck. Done.

Considering a hi-rail truck could cost less than $50,000 - you could have of 80 of them for the price of just one Predator. The math follows: $4,000,000 / $50,000 = 80

Sometimes, a Mark 1 eyeball is good enough.
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