At this year’s InnoTrans in Berlin, Frauscher Sensor Technology launched a world premiere: its new product line Frauscher Tracking Solutions FTS, which has the potential to revolutionise the way of train operations. From the first minute of the exhibition it gained immense attention from all visitors who came to the Frauscher stand in large numbers.

On the principle of distributed acoustic sensing (DAS) the new Frauscher Tracking Solutions FTS can be operated using only one single core of a fibre optic cable. As most operators already have installed such cables next to their tracks for communication, implementation of this new system is simple and quick.

By sending laser pulses from an optical unit into the fibre 2,500 times a second, the fibre is transformed into a whole sensor which is equipped with virtual microphones every ten metres. Sound waves hitting the cable cause minimal changes in its structure. This leads to a change in the laser pulse’s reflection, which can be measured and set in relation to the time that has passed since sending out the pulse.

This enables a wide range of possibilities to improve existing or create new applications for train tracking, asset condition monitoring and security requirements. It is possible to detect passing trains, wheel flats, rail breaks, footsteps on or near the cable, works such as sawing or digging, rock falls, animal herds and more – all along the track and in real-time.

Frauscher is the first supplier of rail technology, who has solved the issues for bringing DAS-based solutions to railways. During the last year, cooperation started with Fotech Solutions. Together, the first railway specific approaches have been developed to a status that allows a presentation to the markets. Now this cooperation between Frauscher and Fotech will be intensified in order to push these achievements to the next level.

Under the strong leadership of Frauscher, a joint research and development team was founded lately: "To further develop this new approach we are investing even more in research and development in the future. The new Frauscher Tracking Solutions FTS fit perfectly with our existing portfolio. They can be combined with our core systems for axle counting and wheel detection. Thus, we can provide our customers with massively expanded options", Michael Thiel, CEO Frauscher Sensor Technology, explains the latest developments.

Peter Bradley, who took on the role as FTS Director, has been involved with this exciting technology for over seven years. He is convinced that it will revolutionise the railway industry: "My goal was to deploy this technology safely in the rail sector – and with Frauscher this goal has been realised. Some solutions for railway specific applications have already been developed. They are now available and can be provided to the market. Due to the overwhelming feedback and results that we collected in several pilot installations and at InnoTrans 2016, we are sure that DAS has the potential to become a base technology for railway operations in the near future."

Also Chris Shannon, CEO Fotech Solutions, comments: "Over the last eight years Fotech has been developing some fantastic DAS technologies, delivering real-time monitoring solutions to the pipeline, security and oil and gas markets. We decided that to take our technology to the rail market we would need to work with people who not only have experience of rail sensors and the rail market, but the vision to deliver this new technology into the industry. In Frauscher this vision has been realised and as we continue to innovate together we are sure that DAS will prove to be an industry game changer."