Radar devices could soon be fitted in railway stations to prevent accidents by detecting luggage or people that fall onto the tracks.
Researchers from French research centres IFSTTAR and IEMN have demonstrated a system that uses ultra-wideband radio waves to detect and characterise objects that fall on train tracks and alert station operators to reduce delays and avoid accidents.
‘With the possibility of trains, passengers and even poor lighting, in some instances, obscuring the view of CCTV cameras, radar techniques could certainly be effective in these scenarios,’ said Ali Mroué, lead author of the research published in the journal Measurement Science and Technology.
The Automatic Target Recognition (ATR) procedure defines and simplifies the characteristics of an object when it is detected, and then compares the information to a database to determine what the object is.
Using a computer simulation, the researchers initially tested out a number of objects, ranging from suitcases to glass bottles, and several models of the human body: an adult, a teenager and a child.
Real-life experiments were then performed in a small, echo-free chamber, using a 3m-long waveguide — a solid beam-like structure that guides the radio waves in a certain direction, in this case towards the object being measured. These showed the system was able to differentiate between luggage and people.
‘We hope these devices will be used in the near future since they are very complementary to existing video systems and have a similar final cost,’ said Mroué.
‘The complementary use of video and radar systems could lead to low levels of false detection, which is mandatory for this application, and maximise the chance of survival for passengers who have fallen on the line.’