Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, have designed and built a remote inspection rig that could allow emergency services to assess incidents on the railway without putting people at risk.

In a press release announcing the vehicle’s development, the university said it could be used to assess the scene of a hazardous chemical spill on a remote section of track, for example.

The Instrumented Rail Inspection System (IRiS) can be quickly deployed and remotely driven to an incident. Using infrared cameras and sensors, emergency services would be able to determine whether the site is safe for first responders to attend.

The university’s Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) said in a statement: “Funded by the Transportation Security Administration, IRiS was created through an iterative process in which APL engineers worked with transit agencies to assess their needs, and then used those requirements to design and build a prototype system with assistance from APL technicians, machinists and materials experts.

“The two-year development also included several live tests in metro transit systems to demonstrate the capability of IRiS to operate effectively on the rails either above or below ground in transit tunnels.”

APL has recently partnered with Protran Technology, a subsidiary of Harsco Rail, which will assess the feasibility of using the unmanned unit.

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