IIT Professor’s answer to jumbo deaths in train collision

An Odia professor’s innovation may turn out to be a solution to the country’s rising elephant deaths due to train collision.

Published: 03rd January 2021 10:18 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd January 2021 10:18 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

BHUBANESWAR : Prof Subrat Kar of IIT-Delhi has devised sensors to track presence of elephants on railway tracks. His innovation that might put an end to the mishaps and save lives of the jumbos has received the Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay Telecom Award, reports Diana Sahu

An Odia professor’s innovation may turn out to be a solution to the country’s rising elephant deaths due to train collision. Prof Subrat Kar of department of Electrical Engineering in IIT-Delhi has designed and built a prototype warning system which detects presence of elephants on the railway tracks. His work has won the Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay Telecom Award, instituted by Department of Telecommunications (Ministry of Communications) last week. Congratulating Prof Kar and IIT-Delhi for the work, Union Minister of Education Dr Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank said the warning system has zero interference with the gentle giants’ natural movement and will go a long way in saving them from train mishaps.

The prototype was developed at the department of Electrical Engineering and Bharti School of Telecom, IITDelhi, in collaboration with Wildlife Institute of India. He started working on the project five years back and completed it in 2018 with a funding of `30 lakh from the Indian Railways. The warning system comprises four sensors that detect feet vibration, infrared rays coming from the approaching animals, a laser detector and a camera to recognise the elephants.

Clockwise: Prof Subrat Kar (centre)
receiving the cash award. The warning

Currently, Kar and his team members are working on demonstration, testing and validation of the warning system. Kar says a fully loaded train travelling at 60 kmph needs about 2 km to come to a halt.

Thus, the presence of elephants on the railway track needs to be detected sufficiently ahead of time and at distances greater than 2.5 to 3 km of the moving train if it is to be brought to a halt. “We use multiple layers of sensors and decision algorithms to confirm the presence of elephants before the stop signal goes out to the loco engine.

The design also allows us to reconstruct exactly what happened – when the elephants were detected, when the train was informed etc. which are all important components of the post-event analysis”, he says. Prof Kar, who hails from Cuttack, said the desire to evolve a technical solution came following a series of elephant deaths in train collisions in Ganjam, Athagarh and Parlakhemundi a decade back.

“Elephant herds are matriarch led. When speeding trains hit the elephants, the first casualties are the matriarchs and aunts who try to protect the herd and the next to die are the calves who cannot or do not run or are prevented by the confusion from doing so. With the matriarch dead, the legacy memory of resources – water, food, traditional migratory paths which the matriarch of the herd had - is also lost,” he explained. Under the project, focus is only on the active elephant corridors. “With permission of the Indian Railways, we plan to install multiple layers of sensors which can detect the presence of animals on tracks in these corridors from a distance.

The sensors will relay the information back to the station nearest to the segment where the elephants were detected, and then send a signal to the train driver to apply brakes and come to a halt before the point where the elephants were seen” he said. In the pilot phase, the system will be deployed at Uttarakhand’s Rajaji National Park which has two railway stations close to it. The system has been demonstrated several times in the lab and as a laboratory pilot prototype in railway yards. Kar says the detection rate has been excellent and the team is now looking forward to receiving the necessary clearances and funding for demonstrating this in the field or operational situation.

The warning system can also be used as an approach to detect crop raiding or intrusions into villages by elephant herds, as an early warning system to alert people about presence of elephants, detecting excursions of herds from sanctuary/ reserve perimeters and for detecting poachers.


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