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  • Periodic Reporting for period 1 - TRACKSCAN (A practical, portable and robust scanning system using infrastructure inspection radar (IIR) for the investigation of rail track substructure, ballast and tunnel infrastructure)
H2020

TRACKSCAN Report Summary

Project ID: 700138

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - TRACKSCAN (A practical, portable and robust scanning system using infrastructure inspection radar (IIR) for the investigation of rail track substructure, ballast and tunnel infrastructure)

Reporting period: 2015-12-01 to 2016-05-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Railview Limited (RVL) is a high-tech SME based in the North-East of the UK. One of their innovative concepts is “TRACKSCAN” which is a development of a Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) system to be used within the rail industry to give greater clarity of sub-surface images related to defects within rail infrastructure. To take a step forward towards the production of a prototype, RVL successfully applied for EC/SME Phase 1 funding for a 6-month feasibility study to assess the viability of the TRACKSCAN concept.

The overall objectives of the TRACKSCAN project/feasibility study were:
• To prepare for commercialisation of the TRACKSCAN concept
• To assess the practical application of the TRACKCAN technology to the rail environment
• To prove the business concept with industry support
• To assess the practical viability
• Confirm the economic viability and further investigate the market potential in order to further elaborate a business model and plan.

All of these objectives for the Phase 1 project have been successfully completed and further activity has been undertaken in light of the knowledge gained to change the initial focus of the next research step. One key target for supporting commercialisation was to determine market needs. The Phase 1 feasibility study carried out by RVL into TRACKSCAN has revealed a number of services emerging for market entry from the initial key priorities. This not only includes hazards stemming from track and substructure defects, but also those due to other problems occurring in the rail environment (such as landslides, retaining wall failures, animal activity and concrete delamination from tunnel surfaces).

TRACKSCAN has been designed to detect and evaluate subsurface risk in their formation stages. The introduction of TRACKSCAN to an ageing rail network will be a valuable asset to infrastructure development and maintenance teams. TRACKSCAN’s 3d visual assessment software coupled with the ability to accurately diagnose issues and their extent and positioning along a track will allow rail workforces to plan essential repair work in a timely manner resulting in accurate budget forecast and minimal disruption to passenger and freight services.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

Work began on the TRACKSCAN project with coordinators RVL assessing the User Needs for the TRACKSCAN concept. This involved targeting potential stakeholders to interview using an RVL designed Rail Infrastructure Questionnaire. Interviews were by telephone and face-to-face both giving the opportunity for additional qualitative comments. This research was carried out into month 5 of the project to gain the maximum amount of quantitative and qualitative information. A conclusion to the interviews was that the combination of seasonal weather, track vibration and rail weight, the structural integrity of rail culverts could be compromised possibly causing the surrounding area to erode beneath the structure causing a void or “sinkhole” not visible from the surface. These issues present many opportunities to use TRACKSCAN to identify any impending problems. For example, one particular area highlighted, as a constant concern with impacts to normal rail services was the effect wildlife has on infrastructure and culvert blockage, which incur financial penalties for delays in passenger and freight traffic. Responses from the interviews clearly show that that a TRACKSCAN device would be a valuable aid to a workforce, enabling an additional form of surveying primarily in the prevention of a situation occurring and this has now become a target area for RVL research.

To facilitate business development, RVL were put in contact with Enterprise Europe Network North (EEN) based in the North-East of the UK as a result of the EC funding. The association was very fruitful and RVL were made aware of many opportunities concerning future Business Planning/Coaching. It was through this EC funding mechanism that RVL had the opportunity to meet with a European Business Coach to work together in understanding the basics of producing a commercial Business Plan to move a prototype closer to market as a company.

Also at this time RVL began sourcing potential partners for a further large-scale project to make a prototype of the TRACKSCAN unit and take it to market. An important partner will be one who is able to interpret high volumes of data generated from the TRACKSCAN unit and turn these into 3d virtual reality images for interpretation. The initial TRACKSCAN prototype is for data acquisition only with the computer processing making the image from the prototype by software developers depending on the refinement of the hardware. This is a very specialised area and there is a local company in the North-East of the UK who are willing to take on this task and work together with RVL in future collaborations.

It was established through the feasibility study that there was potential for further development in the TRACKSCAN system and that the most appropriate IPR protection method would be to apply for a Patent. The RVL Chief Scientist was charged with producing a summary document identifying the novelties to brief a Patent specialist. The Managing Director of RVL identified a Patent Attorney who could be used for submission of a TRACKSCAN Patent. In month 5 of the project, a vehicle mounted radar-scanning device was submitted for examination to the UK patent office. This was advised by a Patent Attorney as the Patent search had not revealed any existing Patents worldwide that had the same scope as the TRACKSCAN technology. The Patent is now “Pending”.

The final month of the project, concentrated on maintaining a relationship with potential end users of TRACKSCAN as a result of the feasibility study in the UK as well in Europe. The RVL website has a page dedicated to TRACKSCAN which will continue to reflect the progress of the concept without compromising the IPR and Patent confidentiality - www.railview.co.uk/trackscan

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

There are a number of expected impacts from the development of the TRACKSCAN system and these are a benefit for the end-users. Railview Limited as a high-tech SME is well aware of the market for technologies that improve safety and efficiency in levels of rail related maintenance in the UK and wider European and International markets.

Infrastructure owners and maintainers will be the beneficiaries of the commercialised TRACKSCAN system, which will be able to examine and evaluate the entire ballast, subgrade and adjacent subsurface regions as well as infrastructure such as bridges and tunnels. This will maintain and improve levels of safety on rail networks, while reducing maintenance time and costs, providing significant economic benefits.

Railview Limited’s phase 1 feasibility study into TRACKSCAN has shown a number of services emerging for market entry. Interviews, questionnaires and market research conducted have shown the strongest areas for exploitation by TRACKSCANS capabilities:

• The inspection of rail track Ballast.
• Culvert Mapping, Inspection & Void Detection
• Tunnel and Bridge Inspection
• Earthwork and Retaining Wall Evaluation
• Environmental impact

This innovation project fits absolutely into the strategy of taking RVL into the implementation phase and bringing TRACKSCAN to the market. This will significantly assist in developing the company and work force alongside this exciting product.

Related information

Record Number: 190266 / Last updated on: 2016-11-14
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