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
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.
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.
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.
@prabhakar_deosthali: "...a pilot engine runs ahead of the train to ensure that there is no track fault or any other obstruction.."
Is that what followed in India? I do not have much idea, but I think that would be a costly affair as an engine per one high speed train would be engaged all that time just to monitor cracks. I have seen a small four wheeled cart carrying people and pushed by a couple of persons slowly on the tracks in my childhood. I believe that was used earlier to monitor the tracks manually long time back. It was done for each sections of every division...can't imagine the number of people engaged into this. Now a days I believe a specialized track monitoring car is used as shown in the link below:
With this laser based device mounted on the engines (may not be for all) of regular trains for scanning the tracks it would be possible to get rid of those special monitoring vehicles or manual effort. Also the scanning could be done much more frequently that it is currently done. Great piece of equipment.
This practice is followed only for select trains running in sensitive areas where the incidents of manual disruption of rail tracks have happend in the past.
Just last month a major train accident was averted by such a pilot engine . A section of the track had been blown aprt by explosives and the pilot engine completely derailed while going over it. But it averted a major accident for the train which was to run on that track an hour later.
What you have seen in your childhod is right - those small inspection carts can do this job but they are slow speed and can hinder the high speed train trafiic.
With the kind of laser scanning talked about in this blog a simplified light weight but high spped tracking by an unmanned light vehicle can be a possible solution.
@prabhakar_deosthali: "...This practice is followed only for select trains running in sensitive areas where the incidents of manual disruption of rail tracks have happend in the past..."
Okay I understand the context which you described earlier. I did not know that such arrangement was made due to unfortunate miscreants caused by anti-socials. Good to know that this practice saves many lives, for which the cost of running an extra engine for certain trains in certain areas is insignificant.
I'm interested in the kind of information that the scanning system can obtain. The image looks like a monochrome (green) image of the scene. Obviously this could be useful if the tracks had been sabotaged or suffered gross damage such as the bed being washed out by a flood, missing rail spikes, or severe physical damage to the rail. Does this technology have any value in detecting progressive material failures? Which of the failure modes that require repair can it detect?