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The 'robot on rails' that performs inspection and first response work.

Posted by Luke Upton on Jul 7, 2016

The_iRIS_in_action_Pic_HarscoJohns_Hopkins.jpgFor more than 70 years, The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) has provided major contributions to developments in technological research, development and analysis. Founded in 1942 during World War II, APL has provided solutions to national security and scientific challenges across a wide range of fields. A glance at the homepage today includes news about their work on a spacecraft orbiting Jupiter, next generation prosthetics for injured soldiers among just some of their current projects.

But now their attention has turned to our industry, with an alliance with Protran Technology (a unit of Harsco) aiming to introduce unmanned vehicle technology to traditional railway safety and security operations.

“Rail safety depends on regular access, evaluation and protection along the railroad right-of-way,” said Jim Resio, Harsco Rail’s Director of Protran Technology. “With the new Instrumented Rail inspection System (IRiS), security inspection and ’first response‘ work can now be done robotically, with almost no risk of human injury or fatality.”

Equipped with near-infrared video and photographic capability, the IRiS can be operated remotely from a portable base station that provides a single interface for controlling the vehicle and reviewing telemetry. The unit is designed to accommodate an array of optional sensors that can expand its capabilities to include chemical, radiation or optical detection, making IRiS an ideal solution for first entry into active events such as bomb threats, fires or natural disasters.

Moreover, unlike conventional, large-scale inspection systems, the IRiS can be mounted or dismounted from the track site within minutes, greatly reducing the impact on scheduled rail services.

IRiS is the result of an extensive APL technology development effort, funded by the Transportation Security Administration , that was shaped by feedback from transit stakeholders. The two-year development included several live tests in metro transit systems to demonstrate the capability of IRiS to operate effectively in either above-ground or below-ground applications.

Under its agreement with the Applied Physics Laboratory ( @JHUAPL ), Protran Technology will make the IRiS platform commercially available throughout Harsco’s ( @HarscoCorp ) extensive network of railway and urban transit system customers, as well as to potential adjacent markets such as the transportation and mining industries, where similar access, observation and incident-response needs also exist.


Technological innovations like this are a major part of the 6th annual SmartTransit Congress in Elizabeth, New Jersey (October 25-26th 2016).Book your ticket now! 


For more rail innovations like this: 

DB tells staff and unions to prepare for driverless operations by 2021.

Drone use ready for takeoff in the world of rail.

Are Amazon planning to use trains & metros as mobile pickup points?

London confirmed as world's first transit network to accept Apple Pay. 

SmartTransit 2016

Topics: IT and WiFi

Luke Upton

Written by Luke Upton

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