Elephants saved with AI-based tech intervention by Northeast Frontier Railway

The alerts generated by the system are received by those manning the control room and the section station master. The loco pilots also get the alerts on a tablet-type device they use in the locomotive

Published: 10th January 2023 05:45 PM  |   Last Updated: 10th January 2023 06:56 PM   |  A+A-

IDS dashboard in central control at Maligaon Headquarters in Guwahati. (Photo | Express)

Express News Service

GUWAHATI: When a dumb train mows down intelligent elephants, what can save them? Artificial Intelligence, says the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR).

Incidents of wild elephant deaths in train hits are common in Assam, but the NFR has found a technological solution by utilising an AI-based software that is backed by optical fibre cable (OFC).

Since August last year when the NFR started monitoring the movement of jumbos with the help of this detection mechanism in 11 elephant corridors, along a distance of 70 km, in the Lumding and Alipurduar divisions, there has not been a single such incident.

Buoyed by the success of the Intrusion Detection System (IDS), the NFR has now decided to make this technological intervention in the remaining 75 elephant corridors falling under its jurisdiction.

The NFR’s Chief Public Relations Officer Sabyasachi De told The New Indian Express that the railway OFC cables run parallel to tracks. These are used for dedicated railway internet for various core operations of the railways.

"When there is an elephant movement on or alongside a railway track, it creates vibration, causing variations in the optical signals being carried in these OFCs. The disturbance in the signals is the signature. Our AI-based software detects the changes in the optical signals to sense the presence of elephants," De said.

"This software can tell us exactly whether the movement is that of an elephant, other animals or even human. It can also specifically tell the distance where the movement has been detected. Any mammal which walks on land has a specific movement signature. The AI-based software has been trained to even detect the number of animals at a site," he said.

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The alerts generated by the system are received by those manning the control room and the section station master. The loco pilots also get the alerts on a tablet-type device they use in the locomotive.

The movement can be detected for 35 km front and back along the tracks from where the IDS brain center has been installed. The OFC is able to detect vibrations up to 15-20 meters away.

"Normally, we restrict the speed of trains wherever there is an elephant corridor. The loco pilots are advised to move cautiously in the elephant corridors irrespective of the presence of elephants at that time. Now, they will know the exact movement of the elephants beforehand and control train speeds accordingly. This system has solved the root of jumbo deaths on tracks," De said, adding the detection mechanism receives thousands of alerts every day with pinpoint accuracy.

The 86 elephant corridors under NFR straddle over 226 km. This is the highest number of elephant corridors in any zonal railway. The NFR has plans to put in place the system at all corridors by next year.

"We will use this technology also to detect fault in tracks, wheel flats, illegal excavations near tracks and real time train approach information in Level Crossing gates," De said.

Nowhere in the world is this technology used to prevent train's collision with wild animals. Oil and gas-based companies use it to detect the leakage of oil and gas from pipelines, he said.

Altogether 120 elephants had died in collisions with trains between 1990 and 2022 in areas falling under the NFR. The technological intervention has not just saved the elephants and cattle, it has also reduced damages to locomotives and other rolling stock.


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