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IIT Madras Folks Build Robot to Detect Cracks in Rail Tracks, Prevent Train Accidents!

Artemis is a robot built by a team of students from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, is equipped with ultrasonic and infrared sensors to collect real time data about the tracks.

One of the main aspects of civil engineering is the maintenance of structures like buildings, bridges and even rail tracks. Rail tracks have to be carefully monitored for faults like minor cracks, displacements and regular strength checking.

Maintenance is just as important as construction. And rail tracks are usually maintained by gang men, who regularly go on the site to test the tracks. This usually puts them at risk of injury as studies show that an average of 400 gang men die in accidents every year, most hit by trains, while on duty.

But now, Artemis can help in saving lives of workers, while keeping passengers safe.

Artemis is a robot built by a team of students from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. Artemis is fitted along a railway track and can detect cracks as small as 2 cm with sensors and send out real-time data.

IIT Madras students develop robot to maintain train tracks
Left: The IIT Team behind Artemis (Source: COI IIT-M) Right: Representational image of men working on the tracks.

The 1.5 foot-long robot has six wheels which can move back-and-forth at a speed of 1 m/s on the tracks. It is equipped with ultrasonic and infrared sensors to collect data and send it to a microcontroller (microchip) inside the robot. It is not only lightweight, but can move on the tracks even when there is a train running on it.

Shashwat Sahoo, a student of biotechnology at IIT-M and a member of the Artemis team, told The Times Of India, “We have developed a system that is fully automatic and sends out real-time data with accurate location of the crack for action needed. It cuts response time.” He added, “It is (a) cheap solution for Indian Railways — we used commonly available material to build the device.”

The device has a GPS module and a GSM-enabled SIM card installed in it, which ensures that when a crack is identified, the microcontroller sends out the location and a timely alert.

Sahoo told the publication, “We eventually plan to have a central database to which the robot could send the data.”

The technology was showcased at the Inter-IIT Tech Meet 2018 along with other stunning innovations. It has been tested on a dummy track on the campus. Another member of the group, Kavan Savla, said that the team planned to approach the Railways for a particular location where the robot could be tested and results established.

“We will attach solar panels to power the battery of the robot. Also, the robot has a modular design, so no technical expertise is required to change its components,” Savla concluded.

(Edited by Shruti Singhal)


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