Bihrle and BNSF's 'RailVision' proves beneficial during long range UAS railway inspections

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Bihrle Applied Research (Bihrle) and BNSF Railway (BNSF) have announced that they successfully demonstrated the processing of several thousand images at a time, covering hundreds of miles of track for the automatic detection, classification and reporting of rail conditions.

This feat was made possible thanks to RailVision, which is a “computer vision technology solution” developed by the companies in support of BNSF’s UAS research initiatives.

RailVision allows BNSF to automatically process images collected by UAS during supplemental railway inspection flights, and generates actionable reports in a significantly less amount of time required by traditional methods.

According to Bihrle and BNSF, the success of RailVision has enabled BNSF to apply its use to expanded operations starting this year.

“Bihrle’s computer vision capabilities have been used in conjunction with our railway safety enhancement research and the FAA’s Pathfinder Program,” says Todd Graetz, Director, Technology Services at BNSF. “The breadth of railway anomaly detection capabilities provided by Bihrle allows us to further research into the use of long range UAS.”

Jack Ralston, President of Bihrle Applied Research, says, “UAS are typically flown with one or more imaging capabilities that result in terabytes of images and their associated metadata. Bihrle has been working with BNSF for over 4 years to create an automated computer vision solution that processes the images, allowing human Subject Matter Experts to review the actual findings rather than being burdened with the task of looking at raw image files, thereby fully exploiting the value of UAS based inspection.”