Technical Reports

Multifunction LIDAR Sensors for Noncontact, Speed, and Complex Rail Dynamics

  • 24
  • Jul
  • 2014
AUTHOR: Mehdi Ahmadian, Michael Craft and Cameron Stuart
OFFICE: RPD
SUBOFFICE: RPD-31
REPORT NUMBER: DOT/FRA/ORD-14/26
SUBJECT: Track, Tracks & Structures, Track/Train Interactions
KEYWORDS: LIDAR, noncontact velocity measurement, curvature, alignment, ATGMS, track geometry, Railway Technologies Laboratory, Virginia Tech
ABSTRACT: The results of an extensive series of tests are presented to evaluate the viability and applicability of LIDAR systems for measuring track speed, distance, and curvature in revenue service. The tests indicate that a LIDAR system can successfully provide multifunctional, noncontact measurements with a higher degree of accuracy than encoders and IMUs, at speeds ranging from 0.5 to 100 mph. The tests are conducted onboard FRA’s R4 Hy-Rail vehicle and a track geometry measurement railcar. The railcar tests involve a field-hardy, unmanned system that is successfully operated over several months and thousands of revenue service miles. The results indicate that, with further development, the LIDAR technology would be suitable for implementation in FRA’s ATGMS and track geometry measurement systems. Additional studies are recommended to further establish the LIDAR system’s measurement accuracy, ability to generate a foot pulse (similar to encoder’s TTL signal), and potential for measuring track geometry. The LIDAR system must be tested on a trial basis as a retrofit to wheel-mounted encoders to better assess its potential for integration into track geometry cars. A plausible commercialization plan is needed to prepare the technology for revenue service and integration into FRA’s ATGMS.

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