If anything meets the criteria of dirty, dull, and dangerous tasks for automation to assist or replace humans, train and railway maintenance qualifies. The U.K. is leading the way for robot train maintenance with university-led initiatives.
The global market for inspection robots will have a compound annual grow rate of 16.68% between 2017 and 2021, predicts Absolute Reports.
Earlier this year, the UK Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) announced the winners of a £250,000 ($336,000 U.S.) competition that called for feasibility studies focusing on robotics and autonomous systems (RAS).
The award, provided by the Rail Research UK Association (RRUKA), will fund four innovative projects focused on various maintenance activities. The first is a project led by teams at Cranfield University and Heriot Watt University that would develop a prototype Cab Front Cleaning Robot. The goal is to eliminate the serious safety risks associated with manual cleaning under 25-kilovolt overhead wires, around electrified third rails, or at great heights.
“The overall system will potentially include two robot arms for the right and left sides of the cab front,” said Mustafa Suphi Erden, an assistant professor in the School of Engineering & Physical Sciences at Heriot-Watt University. “Accordingly, the entire system may have two frames in mirrored positions to clean both the left and right sides of the cab front simultaneously.”
Automating wheel set inspections, track-side tasks
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