Submarine crack detection technology now applied to rail lines

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The synergy between military and civilian applications has again been shown with the Institute for Maritime Technology’s (IMT) ultrasonic broken rail detector (UBRD).

The IMT is a division of Armscor and operates out of its own premises in Simon’s Town. Along with other Armscor divisions and operating units it has included in its mandate facilitating the transfer of equipment and technology designed specifically for military applications to civilian ones.

UBRD technology was initially developed for the maritime industry to detect cracks on submarines using sensor technology.

Following this the developers went further, taking the UBRD concept to reliably detect breaks in train rails under harsh environmental conditions. The design of the system makes it suitable for solar powered, remote operation.

System installation is speedy, simple and does not require track modification, fitting of tracking bonds or trenching.

A contract was placed with IMT to supply, install and commission the UBRD system on a 5.2 km stretch of a 67 km newly built rail belonging to Eskom, part of the state-owned electricity supply company’s Majuba Project.

The rail system will see trains delivering coal to Majuba power station in Mpumalanga.

IMT has made steady progress on the contract, according to the Armscor newsletter. Sixty percent of the project is complete. All UBRD sub-system hardware and test equipment was delivered to the client in October 2017.

IMT also completed a signal strength and site survey at predetermined UBRD stations. The purpose of the signal strength and site survey is to ensure once the UBRD system is installed it will deliver optimal performance.



Installation and commissioning was scheduled for November 2017. Due to the rail site not being ready on time, this has been provisionally rescheduled for August 2018.