How thermal imaging is improving safety and efficiency in public transportation

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How thermal imaging is improving safety and efficiency in public transportation

Every day, public transportation passengers rely on trains, metros or trams to bring them safely and timely at their point of destination. However, the risky or careless behavior of people can sometimes lead to accidents that will cause a lot of delay as well as severe damage to rolling goods and rail infrastructure. Thermal imaging cameras can detect this risky behavior in time and help public transportation operators to take the appropriate measures.

Railway, metro or tramway operators want to prevent accidents as much as possible. Traditionally, CCTV cameras are being used to monitor public transportation environments, such as metro platforms or railway tracks. Although CCTV cameras are reliable tools for video analysis, they have certain limitations. CCTV cameras cannot see at night, and will have problems with direct sunlight and shadows. Thermal cameras overcome these limitations, because they produce an image based on invisible heat radiation. Based on temperature differences between objects, thermal imaging sensors produce a clear image in any lighting condition, day or night.

The operational advantages of thermal imaging cameras are significant. That’s why railway operators are now increasingly starting to discover thermal imaging cameras as an ideal solution to detect trespassers, stopped cars on tracks, people falling from platforms on tracks, people walking in tunnels, any time of day and in any weather condition.

Vehicle detection and collision warning at level crossings

Level crossing accidents are a continuous threat and do not only harm and injure passengers but also damage the rail infrastructure and rolling stock. Thermal imaging cameras can prevent collisions between trains and obstacles at level crossings by detecting if a vehicle stops on the tracks and is blocking the passage for an oncoming train. Via detection outputs or via TCP/IP, a warning signal is transmitted to a railway operations center. An operator can view the threat in his workstation and decide which safety scenario is appropriate. A vehicle-train collision can be prevented by warning the approaching train/tram through rail signals, warning lights or directly to the train/tram driver.

Detection of people on tracks, on platforms and in tunnels

On a metro or tram platform, a person falling from the platform onto the tracks is a dangerous situation. The same is true in outdoor rail environments when a person is walking alongside or even on the tracks. Thermal imaging cameras can detect if a person is on the tracks, whether the person just fell or is deliberately going on the tracks. By detecting people entering a train/tram/metro tunnel or walking alongside an outdoor track, thermal imaging cameras can warn an operator with accurate information and position of the person. Thermal imaging cameras can also ensure 24/7 detection operation in tunnels regardless of surround illumination.

Driver vision enhancement

Thermal imaging night vision systems installed onboard trams allow drivers to see clearly in total darkness or in bad weather conditions. Compared to traditional headlights, they offer increased detection of potential hazards, like pedestrians, cars, animals, on the tracks. As a result, it increases the reaction time of operators significantly. More time means more options, smoother driving in emergencies and more room to stop.

Flexible technology

Because of its flexibility, thermal imaging technology has proven its use in numerous industries and applications. Also in public transportation, thermal imaging cameras offer many new possibilities to enhance safety and efficiency. In public transportation tunnels, thermal cameras can help prevent fires, by detecting hot spots, or detect fires in an early stage so they don’t have a chance to spread. Thermal cameras could for example also be used as a rear view camera for railway vehicles that are conducted by a single person. When parked, thermal sensors could be used to monitor trespassers in a certain perimeter around the vehicle. Thermal cameras can also monitor equipment, like overhead lines, and generate warnings when component failure is imminent. Generally speaking, all electronic equipment and components heat up before they break down. These potential problems will be clearly shown in a thermal image.

Free webinar: discover more thermal imaging use cases

Want to know how thermal imaging can improve operational safety and efficiency with your public transportation organization? FLIR Intelligent Transportation Systems, the dedicated thermal imaging specialist for the traffic and public transportation market, is organizing a free webinar on this topic. Join now.


Joris BLATON, FLIR ITS Training Manager, Traficon Academy

Steffen DE MUYNCK, FLIR ITS Product Manager 


The Webinar will take place on Thursday 13 October 2016 at 09:00 am (CET).

To register for the Webinar please click HERE


Joris BLATON, FLIR ITS Training Manager, Traficon Academy

Steffen DE MUYNCK, FLIR ITS Product Manager 


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