Integration of multiple sensors for noncontact rail profile measurement and inspection

Jiaqi Ye, Edward Stewart, DIngcheng Zhang, Qianyu Chen, Karthik Thangaraj, Clive Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rail profile measurement is one of the most critical tasks for track quality inspection to ensure the safe operation of track systems. In modern railway systems, laser triangulation sensors have been widely adopted in onboard measuring units to carry out 2-D rail profile measurement due to their robustness and truly noncontact properties. However, existing solutions limit the degrees of freedom of the laser sensor and thus cannot provide full coverage of the rail profile due to the 'shadowing effect' of triangulation sensors. Incomplete profiles limit the performance of wear assessment hence more detailed inspections still rely on contact-based tools operated by humans. These processes are time-consuming and incompatible with the ever-shortening maintenance windows available in modern railway systems. Benefiting from the miniaturization of sensing technology and improving processors, multisensing systems combine the strengths of different sensors. This article presents a new solution for a laser-based multisensing system for noncontact rail profile measurement and wear inspection. The addition of an inertial measurement unit (IMU) and a camera module allows portable rail profile measurement without 'blind spots.' Optimized iterative closest point (ICP) registration is then applied to generate a complete representation of the rail profile. Experimental results demonstrate that the proposed system can provide accurate and efficient rail profile measurement, and could potentially replace conventional contact-based inspection tools.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9317838
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE Transactions on Instrumentation and Measurement
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Manuscript received September 16, 2020; revised November 10, 2020; accepted November 23, 2020. Date of publication January 8, 2021; date of current version January 19, 2021. This work was supported in part by Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program as part of the S-CODE Project under Grant 730849 and in part by the China Scholarship Council. The Associate Editor coordinating the review process was Yan Zhuang. (Corresponding author: Dingcheng Zhang.) The authors are with the Department of Electronic, Electrical and Systems Engineering, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, U.K. (e-mail: Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/TIM.2020.3042297

Publisher Copyright:
© 1963-2012 IEEE.


  • Complete profile reconstruction
  • measurement by laser beam
  • multiple sensors integration
  • rail inspection
  • wear detection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Instrumentation
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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