In India , a practice is followed , whereby for the high speed passenger trains, a pilot engine runs ahead of the train to ensure that there is no track fault or any other obstruction ( natural landslides or man made obstructions ) on the track for the following train.
If such pilots ( autonomus - like those drones) are run ahead of every train a majority of possibile accedents can be avoided.
A couple years ago I saw a panel van transiting a local highway with cameras pointed every which way. Curious about what was being done, I caught up to the van and it was some sort of camera based highway maintenance scanner, that would look for potholes and other issues. No idea if it was a service some agency had contracted, or just an outfit out trying to generate business.
This is simialr to the Lidar services that companies like mine use, to document the physical environment and ensure adequate transmission line clearances to vegetation, terrain, and buildings. From what I understand it is very expensive per mile of line, and the datasets are enormous. The level of detail is quite good, although I don't have any resolusiton or accuracy specs.
Also, if every train had this device, there would be frequent samples and therefore the ability to detect trends - a certain parameter that deteriorates over time could be detected before it was actually outside of boundaries.
I was just wondering if such scanning system be fitted on all railway engines and enables the drivers to forsee any fault in the track system before the train passes over the track.
Such system will need suitable modifications to have a lase system beaming ahead in an inclined angle to be able to see the track ahead of the train and generate alert if it finds some problem with the rails, the sleepers or the track base.
Such system will be very useful in avoiding accidents due to sudden track failures