Raspberry Pi-powered robot can find cracks in railway tracks

SVSEmbedded has developed a Raspberry Pi-powered robot capable of running along railway tracks and detecting cracks that could lead to potential train derailments.

The fairly basic 4-wheel robot consists of a power supply, LCD, infrared (IR) sensor, alarm, and GSM and GPS modules connected to a Raspberry Pi Pico.

SVSEmbedded provided a video that includes a description of the robot’s basic functionality and an illustration of its operation.

After starting it up, the robot moved along a dummy track and approached a small gap that served as a crack.

The robot’s IR sensor picks up the crack, holds its position, and sends a signal to the computer, which activates a loud, constantly-beeping alarm.

The GSM module then sends an SMS alert to a programmed phone number to provide the location of the crack.

In its current early form, the robot is powered directly from a wall socket and would therefore probably need a battery of some kind to be practical.

According to SVSEmbedded, which is based in the Indian city of Boduppal, it could be used to replace or supplement manual inspection of railway tracks to improve overall safety.

Indian Railways had a vast network spanning 126,366km of tracks and a route length of 67,956km as of March 2020, making it the fourth-largest worldwide.

For comparison, the latest data shows South Africa’s rail network measured 36,000 km, although only around a third of this is actively used.

While it has a buzzing train network, India has suffered numerous train accidents and commuter deaths due to derailments in recent years.

The safety directorate of India’s Railway Board said in the 2021-22 financial year, 35 “consequential train accidents” were reported, most of which were caused by derailments.

In January 2022, nine people were killed and dozens others injured after a train derailed in India’s West Bengal state.

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