Thermal Cameras Provide An Edge In Railway Safety And Security

Thermal Cameras Provide an Edge in Railway Safety and Security

June 28, 2017

Railway Collisions are Still a Major Problem Worldwide
In 2016 alone, there were over 70 fatal railway crashes worldwide. The causes can be natural or intentional, and can range from derailings, to head on collisions with other trains, to railway crossing collisions. In addition to those killed each year in these crashes, many more people are injured. The damage to the trains, tracks, facilities, and other property values in the tens of millions of dollars annually.


Modern Thermal Cameras Have a Broad Range of Functionalities
Thermal cameras are increasingly replacing charge coupled device (CCD) cameras in a variety of homeland security (HLS), commercial security, and safety applications. They provide consistent 24/7 coverage in all lighting conditions and even allow for seamless integration with powerful analytics for a variety of applications. Due to their thermal capabilities, they have higher detection rates than CCD cameras and almost zero false alarms, making them much more reliable. Depending on the needs of the location, thermal cameras can be complemented with CCD, Near IR, and short wave infra-red (SWIR) cameras, and can be networked with radars, acoustic sensors and other integrated sensors for extended performance and faster threat identification. These configurations can cover borders, perimeter surveillance, and railways, to name just a few of the many applications that can benefit from using thermal cameras.


Thermal Solutions for Railway Safety & Security
There are several instrumental ways that thermal cameras can improve safety and security on and around railways worldwide. The most important applications for thermal cameras in increasing railway security include:

  • Long range railway monitoring (up 20km)
  • Depot facilities security
  • Bridge and tunnel security
  • Railway crossing safety cameras
  • Forward facing on-board safety cameras


Long Range Railway Monitoring
From earthquakes and flooding, to failed infrastructure or intentional damage, it can be extremely beneficial to control room and train operators to have the ability to see far in the distance ahead of moving trains. It then stands to reason that protecting trains and the passengers on board from natural disasters and terror attempts can be achieved by using high performance, ultra-long-range surveillance cameras. Dual channel thermal & color day cameras, in both cooled & uncooled versions, can identify issues on the tracks many kilometers ahead of trains in any weather. In the case of cooled thermal cameras, they can even provide rail safety detection capabilities beyond 20km. Thermal cameras for this kind of installation should have a rugged design, simple integration, and be able to be programmed with a number of different types of tracking and detection analytics.


Depot Facilities Security
Depots and facilities along the rails are at particular threat from vandalism of trains, facility walls, and other infrastructure.  Damage and danger from terror attacks, explosions, and injury are also concerns for facility managers. Thermal cameras with analytics can help alert when suspicious or dangerous activity is detected, and offer full visibility of any suspicious events, enabling security personnel to respond according to the nature of the event. “Loitering”, “baggage left behind”, and “crossing lines” are just a few examples of the types of analytics that a camera can be programmed with based on user-defined presets and requirements.


Bridge and Tunnel Security Cameras
A major benefit of thermal cameras is that they enable timely detection, recognition, and response to important events. High risk or sensitive areas like bridges and tunnels can now be constantly monitored for terrorist activity, with networked thermal cameras on either end of tunnels or bridges, and a third in the middle. This solution coupled with embedded analytics that trigger alarms when something notable happens inside a predefined region of interest, provides complete situational awareness for control room operators. Some thermal cameras even have optional embedded hotspot, flame, and smoke detection analytics.


Railway Crossing Safety Cameras
Dual channel VGA thermal and HD day camera systems can provide complete situational awareness when used as a surveillance solution at railway traffic crossings. This kind of full coverage offers visibility of any disturbances on the tracks, enabling train operators to avoid crashes. Constant coverage ensures that control room operators will be able to stop trains well ahead of animals, people, vehicles or other obstructions in the crossing area.


Forward Facing On-board Safety Cameras
Countries like India and China have hundreds of thousands of people that rely on trains to get around every day. When heavy fog rolls in, visibility can drop to zero sometimes for days at a time. When this happens in populated areas, trains must stop until the fog clears, or risk collisions with people or animals on the tracks. Advanced cooled optics on board trains allow for detection of the smallest details, improving response capabilities to animals, vehicles, and people in the area of the railway. The cameras allow operators sufficient time to stop the train if needed, drastically reducing instances of crashes and impacts.

It is clear that solutions exist that can help avoid such terrible accidents, saving lives and avoiding massive losses, while keeping trains running on schedule. The solutions listed above can offer full visibility and situational awareness of any disturbances in depots, on the tracks, and around critical railway infrastructure. Networked systems coupled with a variety of types of tracking and alerting analytics can provide train and control room operators with the critical information needed to keep trains running on schedule, and protect railway assets while keeping dangerous areas constantly monitored, allowing for rapid response to possible risks.