Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Rail Freight Industry May Benefit from Wind Turbine Technology

Acoustic Signature Monitored to Detect Changes
Shipping News Feature
AUSTRALIA – US – WORLDWIDE – Ping Services has launched a device that uses acoustic analysis, machine learning and the Internet of Things (IoT) to continuously detect wind turbine blade damage. Ping has also partnered with fellow South Australian space start up, Myriota, a satellite communications company, to allow it to transmit data in remote areas without internet or mobile phone coverage. Whilst this may seem to have little to do with the logistics industry in fact Ping is investigating the development of applications for the rail freight industry.

The key piece of technology in the Ping system is the algorithm that can rate the health of the turbine based on its acoustic signature and monitor changes over time. The variation in sound made would seemingly be applicable to uses such as detecting a faulty bearing, rendering it possible to change the offending component before it failed causing more serious damage. Mechanical breakdowns and unplanned downtime cost the freight industry millions of dollars every year. Ping Services CEO Matthew Stead, explained thus:

“So that would be listening for things like wheel bearing damage on freight rail wagons. Those trains are going such long distances and wheel bearing issues can cause wheels to seize up and [offer] the potential for derailment.”

The Adelaide-based company will this week install 55 of its listening devices on turbines at a wind farm in the neighbouring state of Victoria as part of a three-month pilot program. The patented device, known as the 2.0, features the Myriota direct-to-orbit satellite connectivity and is powered by its own small solar panel. Stead said about 40 more second generation Ping Monitors would also be trialled at wind farms in the United States in the coming months, most likely in Texas and West Virginia. The device magnetically attaches to wind turbine towers and actively listens to the blades’ acoustic signature while rotating to detect blade faults such as pitting or cracks caused by lightning strikes or hail.

Ping Services closed a A$650,000 seed fund round in July after securing an additional A$200,000 in government funding earlier this year and was part of the University of South Australia’s inaugural space incubator program Venture Catalyst Space. Matthew Stead continued:

“We obviously had a significant milestone with raising funds earlier in the year but when you think about what we’re actually about to do, this is our biggest milestone so far for sure. Our absolute hope is to have these large-scale trials turn into commercial agreements and we’re investigating the best ways to scale up the manufacturing plan. Our target is 20,000 units in five years.”