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SMARTSe Research Project
Railway Analysis via Integrated Logic Systems (RAILS)

Railroads play a critical role in the economic vitality of the U.S. They transport more freight (ton-miles) than any other mode of transportation. According to industry data, ton-miles per track-mile have tripled since 1980. As load density increases, so will the likelihood of defect formation. Railroads must visually inspect most tracks in service as often as twice weekly to comply with the Federal Track Safety Standards. Visual inspections and other automated methods currently used require line closures that deplete available track capacity. The Railway Analysis via Integrated Logic Systems (RAILS) project utilizes low-cost energy harvesting sensors to log and report tri-axial motion that digital signal processing algorithms analyze to detect and localize line and equipment faults. On-board sensors continuously monitor track and vehicle condition to produce a complete and updated picture of these key railroad assets. RAILS complement methods that are more expensive by reallocating time spent on defect discovery to detailed inspections of symptom locations. On-board sensors integrate micro-electro-mechanical (MEMS), global positioning system (GPS) satellite receivers, wireless communications, and microprocessor technology. Cloud computing and signal processing algorithms produce a track quality index to forecast optimum maintenance triggers.

The RAILS System

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NDSU Dept 2880P.O. Box 6050Fargo, ND 58108-6050