NS Deploys Second DTI Portal

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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Norfolk Southern photo.

Norfolk Southern has deployed its second Digital Train Inspection Portal (DTI) in Jackson, Ga., on its Atlanta South District Subdivision, where approximately 19 trains pass through daily. Each portal features Machine Vision Inspection technology developed in partnership with the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), which engineered the hardware, and Norfolk Southern’s Data Science/Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Mechanical teams.

NS Atlanta South District Subdivision at Jackson, Ga, southeast of Atlanta. OpenRailwayMap.org.

The DTI Portals are equipped with an array of 24-megapixel trackside cameras and stadium-type lighting. Together, this Machine Vision Inspection technology captures ultra-high-resolution, 360-degree images of passing railcars. The cameras “are synced to the sub-millisecond, taking 1,000 images per railcar on average as they pass through the tunnel at speeds up to 70 mph,” NS noted. “High-speed cameras are strategically placed at angles to capture defects that are difficult to detect with the human eye during stationary inspections. In addition, capturing images while the train is in a dynamic state provides an inspection for various defects that cannot be done while the train is stationary.”

Norfolk Southern photo

The AI transmits the information to Norfolk Southern’s Network Operations Center, where the data is reviewed. “Guided by a robust response protocol, subject-matter experts then identify and address issues to proactively ensure the safety of rail operations,” NS said. “Critical defects found are flagged for immediate handling.AI analyzes these images for potential defects. Our in-house Data Science/AI team has developed approximately 40 advanced Deep Learning algorithms and already deployed them across heavily trafficked lanes. We plan to roll out an additional 20 algorithms by year’s end. These best-in-class, field-proven algorithms have demonstrated very high accuracy levels, while having very low false-indicators.”

Norfolk Southern photo

Norfolk Southern’s first DTI Portal was deployed in Leetonia, Ohio, in October 2023. The portal currently has 36 active algorithms that are populating automated alerts on equipment for focused inspection and repair. 

Norfolk Southern photo

“We prioritize railroad safety at Norfolk Southern, and we have an unwavering commitment to raising the bar when it comes to safe operations,” said President and CEO Alan H. Shaw. “Partnering with the GTRI on these DTI Portals further exemplifies our dedication to being the gold standard for safety in the rail industry.” 

Norfolk Southern photo

“Improving the human condition is a core tenet of GTRI and Georgia Tech,” said Dr. James Hudgens, Director of GTRI and Senior Vice President of Research at Georgia Tech. “This represents another example of what GTRI has been doing for 90 years: tackling the hardest engineering problems to develop solutions that benefit the state of Georgia and citizens nationwide. Our partnership with Norfolk Southern has been a privilege and it is extremely gratifying to see the portals being deployed across their rail network.”  The DTI Portal project “aims to supercharge Norfolk Southern’s safety infrastructure and inspection processes,” NS said. The railroad plans to have a total of six DTI Portal sites in operation by the end of 2024, and an additional 11 portal sites will be operational by 2026.

Norfolk Southern photo
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