Where has 5G been deployed to enable safety checks, inspections and fault detection?

West Midlands 5G is testing a number of solutions to support monitoring and inspections of infrastructure, for both rail and road. Their POLYTRACK project identifies wear and developing faults to tram tracks: a typically time-consuming task conducted by engineers through manual surveys or the deployment of specialist machinery. It uses 5G’s positional accuracy and real-time data transmission to detect rail imperfections on both tram and rail tracks through sensors installed on the Chassis (Bogie) of the vehicle. Such sensors help operators identify issues, ensuring maintenance is carried out on the track before imperfections deteriorate and as a result, optimising safety and maintenance.

In Japan, 5G-enabled AI will facilitate analytics that identify potential incidents at rail crossings before they happen. Nokia and Odakyu Electric Railway are using ultra high definition cameras to provide a continuous feed and machine-learning based AI to monitor events in real-time. The 5G network makes it possible for this project to run on edge computing resources, minimising the required bandwidth at remote sites with limited connectivity.

Nokia Japan

5G can support a high density of sensors, which additionally enables increased inspection capabilities. Trains and cars could be fitted with sensors and cameras to allow for more pervasive, ongoing monitoring of train lines and rolling stock. 

Network Rail has identified the potential of 5G to control drones beyond line of sight. This will be particularly useful for performing remote survey and inspection of the railway infrastructure (for example, if a tree were to fall on a track); the unique approach creates quicker response times for unplanned inspection and provides a broader vision of the space in question, all while minimising workers exposure to hazardous conditions.  This is being explored in Network Rail’s TSIP (train and station innovation for performance) collaboration project. 5G’s ultra-high-speed connectivity could additionally support aircraft maintenance checks via video streams and remotely-controlled autonomous drones, decreasing the total lead time for inspections. 

Lufthansa Technik has deployed a private standalone 5G network, enabling the conduction of collaborative virtual engine inspections between aircraft technicians and Hamberg-based engineers. The same technology is also being used by engineers to support customers conducting their own inspections in other locations. 

Moving to roads, West Midland 5G’s Continuous Urban Scanner (CURBS) project attaches retrofit specialist LiDAR cameras to vehicles in order to effectively manage the city’s roads and infrastructure. Utilising data to create a real-time 3D mapping and dynamic monitoring system, vehicles such as route buses are able to become mobile scanners and provide data in real-time. Data gathering could include road surfaces, kerbs and objects, in addition to the reporting of road markings and cleanliness, lamp posts, on-street parking bays and bus stops.

Though technological pothole detection is not a new concept, continuous video streams are resource intensive and often provide little useful data beyond location. 5G’s high bandwidth coupled with edge computing is a much better alternative, capturing detailed location data alongside depth and width. Connected vehicles can also communicate to networks (V2N) and other vehicles (V2V) to inform users and management of damage. This helps earlier identification and therefore resolution, in addition to minimising impact by informing road users in real-time. 

Robots too could play a role in conducting safety checks and inspections. At the Port of Rotterdam, the inspection process for gas leaks is critical to the security and safety of Shell Pernis. Trials were successfully conducted with mobile inspection robots, using their private 5G network.

shell pernis

How Else is 5G Being Deployed to Support Transport & Logistics Infrastructure?