RWST - Rail Wear Surveillance Trolley

Hello everyone.
It's been a while since I posted my last project, so I decided to share a new job in a nutshell. If anyone is interested, I can add more details.

I do not know if this project can be considered a robot because it does not move alone currently but when I started working on it it certainly was and in the future I hope to re-develop it.

Well, going straight to the point, the idea was to create a standalone vehicle capable of navigating the tracks of a railroad collecting measurements of the wear of these rails. Rail wear is one of the main factors causing railway accidents and it is imperative that the road undergoes predictive maintenance to avoid major problems.

I designed and built a structure using PVC pipes, this structure is prepared to receive engines in the future, but due to financial problems I could not make the vehicle standalone. The operator of the equipment can push the vehicle through the rails, however, while it performs the analysis.  

An Arduino Nano-controlled circuit was designed where the operator programmed, via an Android application that I developed, a distance to be inspected on the railroad. A rotary encoder informs the circuit the distance traveled by the operator, while the operator performs the analysis of the section programmed via bluetooth.

To evaluate the wear, I opted for the method of digital image processing. A laser beam highlights the rail profile, and the equipment photographs this profile marked in the course of the section programmed by the operator, using an Adafruit camera module, generating an image bank.

I have developed an algorithm in MatLab to segment this demarcated profile by isolating the coordinates of the contour pixels and interpolating them by a polynomial function of degree 8. Comparing the profile obtained in each image of the rail with a profile of a rail without wear, it is possible to know how much linear loss the rail has suffered. After the analysis of the section is completed, the operator then download the images and performs the post-processing of the bank, generating a curve of the wear of the traversed section.

 The idea now is to continue working on the vehicle. I intend to add engines so that it can travel the track alone when programmed by the operator and also automate the processing of the bank so that, at the end of the capture of the image bank, the vehicle itself performs the processing and manages an inspection report. In addition, I intend to add GPS information to georeference the acquired data and guide the maintenance of the route in the best possible way.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Track inspector

This is a really great use of readily available technology to solve a real problem. Thanks for sharing.

Commercial potential

This certainly has commercial potential - are you doing it out of interest, contract or something else? Really nice that you’ve kept the cost down. Potentially add a solar panel and a few light sensors for charging. Not entirely shure how rail switching is triggered - would it have an issue doing this autonomously?

Hi Cbenson. Actually I’m a

Hi Cbenson. Actually I’m a railway technician and this came out as my final project for engineering college. My goal is to keep working on it and improving it, maybe building new versions, in a way that I could start a rail inspection and maintenance business in the future. The rail switching would be a problem for the prototype presented, but not for my concept idea. In a more robust vechicle, it would have 2 cameras and 2 laser beans to inspect both rails at the same time.

Hello ggallant. Thanks for

Hello ggallant. Thanks for your comment :slight_smile:

Very cool!

This is definitely something pretty cool.  Excellent use of tech to address a real problem!  Thanks for sharing your project.



Really nice job with great application

Please get in contact, the next part of things you are going to include fall directly in our field of work / interest. Woud be nice to collaborate if thats in your thoughts.

Really great job :slight_smile:

what a nice idea, I liked your work
I start working on my grad project and I intend to work on your idea and I was hoping if you could help us with the code please.
I’m enthusiastic to you next project :blush:
thanx ([email protected])

justg, thank you very much!
The project is paused at the moment, I don’t know if next year I’m going to initiate a masters degree or if I’m going to try a business of my own with some of my ideas. In any case, I’m going to do both in the future and I hope I can count on your help then.

malek74150 thank you for your comment.
I’m currently working on a scientific paper and I hope it comes out soon. The paper will have details of the implemented codes. I’ill update the project when it comes out.

I suggest you also put a gyro sensor on