The Indian Railways may soon start using a new drone monitoring system being developed by IIT Roorkee to inspect the condition of train tracks, The Economic Times reported.
According to the report, the system is part of a joint initiative between the telecom industry and the Indian Railways.
Anurag Vibhuti, deputy director at Telecom Centres of Excellence India, said in the report that the railways was in an advanced stages of considering deploying unmanned aerial vehicles to monitor rail tracks. The centres of excellence is a public-private partnership initiative.
The report said that the drone system is being tested on tracks in Uttarakhand and that the system will work along with human workers to check tracks. The idea is also to undertake track inspection in harsh weather conditions.
People associated with the project said that the railways was also considering the use of drones for other cases such as infrastructure monitoring, relief and rescue, and crowd management.
RD Bajpai, a spokesperson for the Indian Railways, said in the report that the organisation has it has directed zonal railway offices to procure drones.
“This is in line with the government’s desire to use technology including artificial intelligence to enhance safety and efficiency in train operations,” he said.
Bajpai said the Jabalpur, Bhopal and Kota divisions have already used this technology for monitoring railway works.
As per the report, IIT Roorkee is moving to the second phase for developing the monitoring system. It is expected to model and train an algorithm to develop an artificial intelligence network that could identify data such as images of tracks and help in real-time monitoring.
A faculty member of the institute, who is involved in the project, said the new drone solution would be relatively cheaper than traditional models of inspection. He added that drones could carry out deeper checks of tracks' basic components such as fish plates, among other things.
Last year, the railways had started making efforts to deploy AI to stop signal failures throughout the country. The AI-based alert system collects data at intervals using wireless services and sends to a central repository for processing in order to detect and correct the flaws.
The railways is not only considering the use of newer technologies in track inspections but also in helping maintain food standards served on long-distance trains. Last month, it said it was introducing an AI system that will help track kitchen standards where food for passengers of long-distance trains are made.