IIT Delhi professor builds sensor that can avert elephant deaths on railway tracks
Fitted to railway tracks, the sensor can track visuals, movement, and sound of an elephant, and feed them into an automated algorithm to send a message to the nearest station master/train driver.
The Indian Railways is at work to prevent the untimely death of elephants on railway tracks. After implementing Plan Bee in the Northeast, Assam, and Uttar Pradesh, the Railways are now pitching for a sensor built by a professor at IIT Delhi. The national transporter is currently testing the sensor along railway tracks; if it meets expectations, sensors will be installed along “elephant corridors”.
In a conversation with IANS, Subrat Kar, a professor at the Department of Electrical Engineering at IIT Delhi, said, “The sensors are yet to be installed. They are to be tested in the monsoon season. Since this monsoon has passed, we are waiting for the 2019 season. Our system is functional. We have tested in a similar setting, but not on site. We have earmarked the Rajaji National Park as the test deployment site. It is the ideal place, a kind of a controlled environment and good for experiments. It's where trains are known to travel at the correct speed,” Firstpost reported.
Kar has been working on building a sensor for almost 10 years. The device has been built in collaboration with the Wildlife Institute of India in Dehradun and funded by the Railways and Department of Science and Technology.
The sensor detects the movement of elephants through a number of in-built devices, including cameras, vibrations and body rays. It can also detect whether the animal passing by is an elephant or not.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Kar said, “When fitted to railway tracks, the sensors would track visuals, movement, sound, lights and other parameters before corroborating the inputs and feeding them into an automated algorithm. The algorithm would then decide if an elephant or a herd was near the tracks. A message would be sent to the nearest station master and the driver of trains about to pass through the area.”
If the train is 3 km away from the site of elephant trespassing, the brakes would automatically get activated and the train would stop, Financial Express reported.
The earlier action plan, Plan Bee, involved a device (priced at Rs 2,000) that makes a buzzing sound like honey bees to a range of 600m. The device worked as elephants - afraid of being stung by honeybees – avoided coming near railway tracks.
Elephants have been meeting an untimely death on railway tracks for quite a while now. The Wildlife Trust of India Train says collisions killed 266 elephants between 1987 and 2017. In April 2018, four elephants were hit by the Howrah-Mumbai Express in Jharsugida district, Odisha; all four died on the spot.
But we hope this innovation changes all that.