Harsco and Johns Hopkins University to introduce robotic rail technology

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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Harsco Corporation announced June 1, 2016 that its Protran Technology unit, part of the Company’s Harsco Rail division, has formed a marketing alliance with the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) to introduce unmanned vehicle technology to traditional railway safety and security operations.

“Rail safety depends on regular access, evaluation and protection along the railroad right-of-way,” said Jim Resio, Harsco Rail’s Director of Protran Technology. “With the new Instrumented Rail inspection System (IRiS), security inspection and ’first response‘ work can now be done robotically, with almost no risk of human injury or fatality.”

Equipped with near-infrared video and photographic capability, the IRiS can be operated remotely from a portable base station that provides a single interface for controlling the vehicle and reviewing telemetry. The unit is designed to accommodate an array of optional sensors that can expand its capabilities to include chemical, radiation or optical detection

IRiS is the result of an extensive APL technology development effort, funded by the Transportation Security Administration, that was shaped by feedback from transit stakeholders. The two-year development included several live tests in metro transit systems to demonstrate the capability of IRiS to operate effectively in either above-ground or below-ground applications.

Under its agreement with the Applied Physics Laboratory, Protran Technology will make the IRiS platform commercially available throughout Harsco’s extensive network of railway and urban transit system customers.