Collision Prevention: drones, alerts, gates

General discussion of passenger rail proposals and systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.

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Re: Advance Safety Drones

Postby mtuandrew » Tue Feb 06, 2018 1:01 pm

MCL1981 wrote: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.

As I said before in the above linked article, drones are already legally in use by at least one Class 1 Road:

http://fortune.com/2015/05/29/bnsf-drone-program/

After years of accusations of foot-dragging on unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) regulation, the Federal Aviation Administration has recently been speeding exemption approvals and announcing new regulatory programs. One beneficiary is BNSF Railway, which has gained approval for a pilot(less) program to use drones to inspect its far-flung network of rails. The inspections could help reduce derailments and other safety problems—and though BNSF isn’t saying so, lead to lower labor costs in the long run.


Ron: the truck is cheap enough, not the crew. I’m not saying I want people out of a job either, but to be honest BNSF is saying exactly that.
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Re: Advance Safety Drones

Postby MCL1981 » Tue Feb 06, 2018 2:22 pm

mtuandrew wrote:As I said before in the above linked article, drones are already legally in use by at least one Class 1 Road:

http://fortune.com/2015/05/29/bnsf-drone-program/

After years of accusations of foot-dragging on unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) regulation, the Federal Aviation Administration has recently been speeding exemption approvals and announcing new regulatory programs. One beneficiary is BNSF Railway, which has gained approval for a pilot(less) program to use drones to inspect its far-flung network of rails. The inspections could help reduce derailments and other safety problems—and though BNSF isn’t saying so, lead to lower labor costs in the long run.


That article is misleading and some points are completely wrong. Nor does it satisfy what this thread is suggesting. BNSF does NOT have an exception to operate beyond visual line of sight. The aircraft must be within visual line of sight of the operator and a visual observer (both). This does not allow the drone to do anything meaningful other than some testing and development work. The concept of a drone cruising along a railroad to inspect the track is not currently legal, and no railroad has the legal authority to do anything even remotely close to that.
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Re: Advance Safety Drones

Postby mtuandrew » Tue Feb 06, 2018 3:07 pm

MCL1981 wrote:
mtuandrew wrote:As I said before in the above linked article, drones are already legally in use by at least one Class 1 Road:

http://fortune.com/2015/05/29/bnsf-drone-program/


That article is misleading and some points are completely wrong. Nor does it satisfy what this thread is suggesting. BNSF does NOT have an exception to operate beyond visual line of sight. The aircraft must be within visual line of sight of the operator and a visual observer (both). This does not allow the drone to do anything meaningful other than some testing and development work. The concept of a drone cruising along a railroad to inspect the track is not currently legal, and no railroad has the legal authority to do anything even remotely close to that.

But it does have said authority as part of the FAA Pathfinder Program. The FAA touts BNSF as its launch partner for BVLOS drone testing.

https://www.faa.gov/uas/programs_partne ... athfinder/

Beyond visual line-of-sight operations in rural/isolated areas
BNSF Railway will explore command-and-control challenges of using UAS to inspect rail system infrastructure.
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Re: Advance Safety Drones

Postby miamicanes » Tue Feb 06, 2018 10:03 pm

Here's a better idea: a robot running on the tracks *just* far enough ahead of the train to trigger auto-braking, but not entering the crossing until 5 seconds after the gates are down.

Put a camera on the front that the engineer in the following train & dispatch staff have continuously on-screen, Roomba-like sensors on the bot itself to detect collisions, and the usual accelerometer & gyro monitored for unusual motion. Make the bot big & heavy enough to dent a car it hits or take off the bumpers, but not so big that it becomes dangerous itself.

Advantages:

* much, much cheaper to engineer a rolling robot the approx. size of a golf cart chassis able to run at speeds up to 180mph day after day than to build a drone able to survive that kind of a daily beating.

* plenty of cheap all-day power. With a drone, every gram is precious. A high-powered 180mph glorified semi-autonomous golf cart on track-sized wheels can carry lead acid batteries... or 30 gallons of diesel or kerosene.

I might be wrong, but I could *swear* I remember reading somewhere that JapanRail already *has* robots to do frequent track inspection.
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Re: Advance Safety Drones

Postby SouthernRailway » Thu Feb 08, 2018 8:17 am

miamicanes wrote:Here's a better idea: a robot running on the tracks *just* far enough ahead of the train to trigger auto-braking, but not entering the crossing until 5 seconds after the gates are down.

Put a camera on the front that the engineer in the following train & dispatch staff have continuously on-screen, Roomba-like sensors on the bot itself to detect collisions, and the usual accelerometer & gyro monitored for unusual motion. Make the bot big & heavy enough to dent a car it hits or take off the bumpers, but not so big that it becomes dangerous itself.


This kind of device already exists, more or less: http://www.rail-pod.com
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Re: Advance Safety Drones

Postby electricron » Thu Feb 08, 2018 9:21 am

SouthernRailway wrote:This kind of device already exists, more or less: http://www.rail-pod.com

Per the photos on the link provided, the rail-pod is trailered to the inspection site; so the range can't be far and speed must be pretty slow. It doesn't quite match what the original poster wanted, a scout running in front of trains at speed.
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Re: Advance Safety Drones

Postby AmtrakLocomotiveEngineer » Thu Feb 08, 2018 5:26 pm

Flying drones ahead of trains. Lmao, this is the most absurd idea I've read yet. It would cost too much and as 8thNotch stated at the beginning of this discussion, what if something happens between the drone and the train? The costs would be enormous. Who would monitor the surveillance screens? There's also the delay in communicating any events to the trains.
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Re: Advance Safety Drones

Postby bretton88 » Thu Feb 08, 2018 5:59 pm

Why not just install lazers on crossings instead? if the lazer breaks, it alerts dispatch. You then place the level of the lazer high enough to avoid being interfered with by snow.
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Re: Advance Safety Drones

Postby SouthernRailway » Thu Feb 08, 2018 7:43 pm

electricron wrote:
SouthernRailway wrote:This kind of device already exists, more or less: http://www.rail-pod.com

Per the photos on the link provided, the rail-pod is trailered to the inspection site; so the range can't be far and speed must be pretty slow. It doesn't quite match what the original poster wanted, a scout running in front of trains at speed.


I'd suggest looking at more than photos--it goes pretty fast and has a pretty long range. It may need some upgrades to go before intercity passenger trains at speeds close to theirs, but it could otherwise do what the original poster suggested, at least for freight.
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Re: Advance Safety Drones

Postby Ken W2KB » Sun Feb 25, 2018 1:22 pm

miamicanes wrote:Here's a better idea: a robot running on the tracks *just* far enough ahead of the train to trigger auto-braking, but not entering the crossing until 5 seconds after the gates are down.

Put a camera on the front that the engineer in the following train & dispatch staff have continuously on-screen, Roomba-like sensors on the bot itself to detect collisions, and the usual accelerometer & gyro monitored for unusual motion. Make the bot big & heavy enough to dent a car it hits or take off the bumpers, but not so big that it becomes dangerous itself.

Advantages:

* much, much cheaper to engineer a rolling robot the approx. size of a golf cart chassis able to run at speeds up to 180mph day after day than to build a drone able to survive that kind of a daily beating.

* plenty of cheap all-day power. With a drone, every gram is precious. A high-powered 180mph glorified semi-autonomous golf cart on track-sized wheels can carry lead acid batteries... or 30 gallons of diesel or kerosene.

I might be wrong, but I could *swear* I remember reading somewhere that JapanRail already *has* robots to do frequent track inspection.


Gates typically come down 15 to 20 seconds before a train crosses. Assume the gates are set to lower 20 seconds before the train, which leaves 15 seconds for application of train brakes after the proposed robot strikes a fouling object and triggers the following train's emergency application. At 70mph that is about 1,738 feet before the crossing. A typical 8 car passenger train takes about a mile to stop after an emergency application.
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Black River Railroad Historical Trust :: [/url]
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Re: Advance Safety Drones

Postby bostontrainguy » Sun Feb 25, 2018 3:51 pm

I really don't think railroads would need a highly sophisticated military-spec 4 million dollar drone to check out if the track ahead is clear. I don't know the price but I got a feeling there just might be cheaper options.
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Re: Advance Safety Drones

Postby electricron » Sun Feb 25, 2018 4:56 pm

bostontrainguy wrote:I really don't think railroads would need a highly sophisticated military-spec 4 million dollar drone to check out if the track ahead is clear. I don't know the price but I got a feeling there just might be cheaper options.

True, a full blown military spec drone will probably not be needed. But who else buys drones with a range of hundreds of miles and capable of a dozen hours flights? Which will be the type of drone Amtrak would need to run in front of a NEC train from Boston to D.C., or further into Virginia. That’s why I referenced them.
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Re: Advance Safety Drones

Postby miamicanes » Sun Mar 11, 2018 11:14 am

A typical 8 car passenger train takes about a mile to stop after an emergency application.


I find that very, very hard to believe.

I can *almost* see it taking a mile for a 125mph 8-car passenger train to come to a complete stop at a rate that won't spill drinks, send laptops flying, and cause passengers with canes to fall... but I'm equally sure that a typical Viewliner train moving 79mph could come to a stop a LOT more quickly.

I mean, hell, when I took Brightline last month, the train didn't hit the brakes *hard* until we were practically IN THE STATION. BART trains in suburbia practically stop on a dime from full speed.

Admittedly, BART trains unquestionably weigh less & probably use some form of ABS to actively maximize friction & stopping power, but I'd argue that if an 8-car Viewliner GENUINELY needs a whole mile to stop, there's plenty of room for major design improvements to their braking system (like ABS, for instance), because other trains manage to stop a LOT faster.
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Re: Advance Safety Drones

Postby Bonevalleyrailfan » Sun Mar 11, 2018 5:58 pm

I was on BrightGreen in January when we hit the woman in Boynton beach. The 4 car train plus 2 Chargers stopped in less than 2000 feet from 79mph. I doubt that adding 3 more cars would significantly increase the stopping distance of this trainset type. Maybe older Amtrak stuff has issues stopping fast, but modern siemens equipment seems to stop fast and do it smoothly.
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Re: Advance Safety Drones

Postby bostontrainguy » Sat May 05, 2018 9:36 pm

Probably closer to reality than fantasy. 80 MPH drones programmed through GPS are already being tested.

https://www.today.com/video/this-new-de ... 9624515743
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