US 20070040070 A1
A railroad remote monitoring and detection system employing cameras, that may or may not be remotely positionable and repositionable, and other motion and presence detection devices such as millimeter wave radar and/or passive infrared and or ultrasound detectors. The use of multiple sensor devices reduces the occurrence of false alarms. The system employs software and logic to detect predetermined alarm conditions and then send a signal to a local or central command center and trains on the route. The system includes wireless receivers onboard the train that scan for monitor information one or more monitor stations in advance of the trains progress to give the train engineer/driver advanced warning of hazardous conditions on the trains route. Alarms to the central control center can be monitored to determine a recurrence of potentially hazardous conditions at a particular site so that steps can be taken to avoid such conditions in the future.
1. A railroad monitoring system comprising
at least one monitoring station comprising cameras, and secondary motion or presence detection sensors which scan an area of interest along a railroad track
a wireless communications link which broadcasts information gathered or derived from information gathered at the monitoring station
a wireless communications link on a train for receiving information gathered at or derived from information gathered at the monitoring station
at least one output device for presenting the information received to an engineer or user on the train.
This patent application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/672,564, filed Apr. 18 2005, entitled “Railroad Crossing Surveillance and Detection System”
Any references cited hereafter are incorporated by reference to the maximum extent allowable by law. To the extent a reference may not be fully incorporated herein, it is incorporated by reference for background purposes and indicative of the knowledge of one of ordinary skill in the art.
The present invention relates generally to the field of railroad. More particularly to railroad monitoring and threat detection systems.
Railroads play a vital role in the transportation of goods and people. However, it is not the only form of transportation and is normally found mixed with other forms of transportation. Mixing forms of transportation results in dangers. As this was true with pedestrians and animal drawn carriages and both with internal combustion engine cars and trucks later in history, the interaction between different forms of transportation causes dangers and risks.
Trains typically travel at relatively high rates of speed and have tremendous mass and thus tremendous momentum. This means that it is inherently difficult to halt or arrest the motion of a train over short distances. Frequently, the engineers driving a train are not aware of a risk until it is too late to take action to avoid the risk.
The system described herein gives the engineers driving a train and a central command station a greater opportunity to identify and respond to risks related to railroad transportation.
Reference is now made to the following brief descriptions taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which like reference numerals indicate like features.
It will be understood by those skilled in the art that the present invention can be implemented in a number of different ways, within the scope of this application. A presently preferred embodiment of the invention will now be described below.
In addition to being connected to the monitoring stations the wide area network is also connected to a local control station 80 trough communications link 82 and any number of central control stations 90 via communication link 92. In the embodiment shown these links are connected by hardware connections in alternative embodiments the communications by be wireless.
In the embodiment illustrated the wide area network also has a wireless communications link 52 for communication with the train 12 trough its wireless communications link 63. In alternative embodiments this link may be provided directly to the local control station 80 which makes this train available for communications through the wide area network 50. In yet other embodiments the wireless communications link may be connected directly with a central control station 82 which makes communications with the train 12 available through the wide area network.
The monitor station 30 illustrated in
A millimeter wave radar system 106 is also utilized in the monitor station 30 illustrated in
The monitoring station 30 may also employ other sensors or additional sensors of the types mentioned above. For example monitor station 39 in
As was previously mentioned, the monitor station's array of equipment is mounted on a pole. In the embodiment illustrated, this pole also serves as structure holding a signal light 108 to warn crossing vehicles of the status of the train crossing. In the preferred embodiment a USA Signal Railroad Crossing Signal or a USA Signal No Left Turn or No Right Turn signal are employed. The monitor station is independent of any signal light. However, the signal light provides for the physical housing, proximate location to a crossing and the required electrical power.
In the embodiment shown, solar panels 110 are utilized to charge a battery UPS to power the monitoring devices 100, 102, 104, 106, signal(s) 108 and the electronics and communications systems (described below).
The monitoring station 30 also includes an enclosure 112 to house the electronics (described below) to monitor the sensors, and drive the signals and communications equipment. The monitoring station 30 may also include power connections to mains power (not shown), and The monitoring station also includes an antenna 122 for wireless communications and a hardwire communication link 120 for connection to a wide are network via hardwire connections.
In the embodiment shown the heart of the monitoring station is a main processor board 170 which interfaces with outer components either directly or through driver circuitry and/or software for those respective devices. In the embodiment shown the electronics 112 includes an electronics board 161 for interfacing with the traffic controller 92 of
The circuitry 112 also includes a Pan Tilt driver board 162 for driving the pan tilt and zoom features of the camera's gimbal mechanism (not shown here).
The circuitry also includes driver circuitry for the millimeter wave radar 164, Passive infrared sensor 166, and Ultrasound sensor 168. Each of these boards has electric connections 170, 171, 172, 174, 176, 178 to their respective devices they drive (not shown).
Each of these boards 170, 171, 172, 174, 176, 178 is connected to a central processor board 180 via bus 182 that monitors and provides the gate-keeping functions of the information for distribution. The main processor board is very similar to the motherboard of a personal computer but is preferably designed for use in an semi-protected outdoor environment. The central processor board has at its disposal other standard computer resources such as operating memory, operating system software such as Windows or Linux, driver software to drive the various devices attached to the processor, application software for processing the information received from the sensor devices and generating alarm signals and broadcasting system status sensor information and alarms, and storage for storing information received from the sensors prior to, during or after the broadcast of such information to a train or a command center.
This board 180 is also connected to a wireless bridge 186 such as a 802.11 access point, available in the market from many sources such as Linksys, Cisco, Siemens, etc. that sends and receives communication through the wireless antenna through which the monitor stations communicates with train(s) and possibly with local control station(s) and or central control station(s). The board is also connected to a hardware wide area network trough a DSL Modem 188 such as the USA Signal US-1000 Point to Point DSL modem or some other commercially available means of connecting to a wide area network which provides a communication pathway between the monitor station and the other authorized systems connected to the network.
For the wireless mesh the train system employs a multi-signal Wi-Fi Wireless Mesh Bridge 208. One system that has proven to be suitable for this purpose is the USA Signal US-3000 Wi-Fi Wireless Bridge. However other systems would also be suitable. The network connection inside the train performs a hand-shake with the closest station or access point through the wireless network. Access points are available in the market, such as Cisco, Linksys, D-Link etc.
The user interface illustrated in
In the preferred embodiment the monitoring stations do not self-initiate broadcasting information over the network unless an alarm condition has been determined. In other embodiments all or some of the monitoring stations might broadcast continuously. Ordinarily the monitoring station waits to be poled by either a train or a command center essentially video on demand. Prior to the trip the train is programmed with its route or to self determine its route from GPS information. Then as the train progresses on its route it queries the monitoring stations along the way consistent with the view selected by the engineer. The train ignores any signals from monitoring stations which are not on its route (unless the engineer chooses to view information from monitoring stations on a different route). The train also ignores and signals from monitoring stations on its route that are not currently selected for view and which are not broadcasting an alarm condition. Several different methods are available for determining which signals to ignore and which signals to process. For example the known radio MAC address may be employed or the monitoring stations IP address may be used to determine which monitoring stations may have relevant information relative to the train's route and/or the engineer's query.
An alarm will be sent to the train and to the central office when a trespass is detected and validated by the three levels of detection and certain other programmed conditions exist. If the presence is confirmed by the ultrasound, video and infrared while such condition was not authorized. For example:
if the crossing traffic does not move from the tracks in the allotted time window; or
if the an object is present and the traffic control signal has detected a train; or
if an object is present and the trains route tracking system (such as GPS) indicates that the train is approaching the crossing/or
The three condition alarm is designed to reduce false positives.
The system has the capability to record video both locally at the station, and at the central office. Locally, a memory device is deployed in the controller board, while in the central office a DVR unit or a hard drive array can be added to the network and programmed to record.
The purpose of the railroad surveillance and detection system is to prevent accidents and improve rail traffic safety and control. The remote railroad surveillance and detection system accomplishes this result through the remote monitoring of railroad crossings and strategic locations along a rail line. The system sends audio alarms and video alarms and images to warn an approaching train and a central or local control or command center of a potential risk. The preferred embodiment of the train provides the train with video images of several crossing in the trains path or alternate paths. The images are displayed in the engineer's cabin on an ongoing basis. If a potential dangerous situation is detected an audio alarm and visual alert are signal to the train and the command centers. These remote monitors can be positioned all along a track or may be strategically located at railroad crossings or likely opportunity targets for terrorists or individuals that may be up to mischief.
By using multiple sensor technologies the degree of false alarms can be minimized and the relative ranking of a potential problem can be prioritized.
The system also applies to rail crossing with shipping lanes and on bridges where the monitor stations may be more focused on activity below the tracks rather that on or above the tracks.
The use of the terms “a” and “an” and “the” and similar referents in the context of describing embodiments of the invention (especially in the context of the following claims) are to be construed to cover both the singular and the plural, unless otherwise indicated herein or clearly contradicted by context. The terms “comprising,” “having,” “including,” and “containing” are to be construed as open-ended terms (i.e., meaning “including, but not limited to,”) unless otherwise noted. Recitation of ranges of values herein are merely intended to serve as a shorthand method of referring individually to each separate value falling within the range, unless otherwise indicated herein, and each separate value is incorporated into the specification as if it were individually recited herein. All methods described herein can be performed in any suitable order unless otherwise indicated herein or otherwise clearly contradicted by context. The use of any and all examples, or exemplary language (e.g., “such. as”) provided herein, is intended merely to better illuminate embodiments of the invention and does not pose a limitation on the scope of the invention unless otherwise claimed. No language in the specification should be construed as indicating any non-claimed element as essential to the practice of the invention.
Preferred embodiments of this invention are described herein, including the best mode known to the inventors for carrying out the invention. Variations of those preferred embodiments may become apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art upon reading the foregoing description. The inventors expect skilled artisans to employ such variations as appropriate, and the inventors intend for the invention to be practiced otherwise than as specifically described herein. Accordingly, this invention includes all modifications and equivalents of the subject matter recited in the claims appended hereto as permitted by applicable law. Moreover, any combination of the above-described elements in all possible variations thereof is encompassed by the invention unless otherwise indicated herein or otherwise clearly contradicted by context.