Winners of the ‘First of a Kind’ (FOAK) competition for ‘Reliable and Maintainable Assets Rail Demonstrations’, funded by the Department for Transport and delivered in partnership with Innovate UK KTN, were announced at the end of 2023, and this year sees them progressing to deliver their innovations.
As one of the successful submissions, the DepotMATE (Multi-sensor Automated Train Examination) project is another successful FOAK win for One Big Circle, and the Bristol-based SME are working in collaboration with operators Transport for London (TfL), Colas Rail and East Midlands Railway (EMR) to develop an existing prototype solution into a fully operational depot-based inspection system by the completion of the 12-month project delivery.
Remote Monitoring of Rolling Stock
The DepotMATE project aims to overcome the safety and efficiency challenges associated with depot-based rolling stock inspections. Rolling stock operators are required to undertake regular manual inspections of passenger, freight, light and heavy rail vehicles, within hazardous industrial depot environments and often overnight. In addition to impacting worker safety, overheating or non-visible defects make high-risk assets difficult to detect via human inspection, potentially resulting in costly repairs, resource-intensive maintenance, or ultimately service delays.
One Big Circle’s solution will deliver a multi-sensor lightweight inspection system, deployed to depots or sidings and positioned to capture data from passing rolling stock to enable remote inspection to be undertaken. Enabling simultaneous capture of critical thermographic, acoustic, and Forwards Facing Video data, the SME’s project will capture valuable data outputs outlined by each project partner to provide insight into the condition of rolling stock assets, massively reducing the need for workers to step trackside for examinations. Interfacing with One Big Circle’s multi-award winning Automated Intelligent Video Review (AIVR) cloud-based platform, depot operatives, control units, fleet managers and contractors will have the ability to review a plethora of imagery as well as acoustic data and insights online in real-time, massively reducing the need to manually patrol vehicles entering or leaving the depot.
DepotMATE Prototype System in Testing at EMR Eastcroft Depot
“We are always looking at how we can embrace new technologies to improve our fleet for our customers, therefore we are proud to be a key partner in One Big Circle’s groundbreaking DepotMATE project.” – Mark Coney, Head of Fleet Engineering for EMR. “It will be great to see the project progressing and we are looking forward to analysing the results of the pilot to understand if the technology could be adopted on a wider scale.”
Automated Trackside Vehicle Inspections
AI models designed and developed throughout the project will enable the automated detection of potential faults or issues, such as overheating wheel bearings or faulty assets. The developed solution will allow inspection and surveying of vehicle cleanliness, asset status, and allocation within depots to be undertaken repeatedly and reliably online, helping to inform predictive maintenance decisions.
The 12-month project delivery will enable a portable system which will be temporarily deployable to sites, providing a configurable unit of inspection sensors for each partnering operator. At the close of the demonstration, the project team will have produced a fully customisable unit which can be permanently installed in depots and sidings, with the aim to be commercially available to the market at the end of 2024.
“The DepotMATE project will be invaluable in helping to monitor the condition of our freight trains” says Simon Ball, Director of Freight for Colas Rail UK; “The team have been capturing data from our freight trains which will help to identify high risk issues such as wheel flats or overheating wheel bearings in a safer and more proactive way, allowing necessary technical examination or repairs to be undertaken prior to trains operating onto the rail network. We look forward to continuing working with the team to deliver this technology which will help in dynamically maintaining and safe operation of Colas Rail freight trains”.
“We’re delighted to be delivering another innovation project as part of this year’s FOAK competition,” says Emily Kent, one of the founders of One Big Circle – “The funding provided for this project is enabling us to explore a number of novel technologies to meet specific rolling stock maintenance challenges, and is a fantastic opportunity to collaborate directly with Freight and Train Operators. Working collaboratively with our project partners and Innovate UK KTN, we look forward to creating this trailblazing system that will enable safety-critical rolling stock inspections to be delivered reliably, safely, and dynamically”.