The University of California at San Diego (UCSD), under a Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Office of Research
and Development (R&D) grant, is developing a system for high-speed and non-contact rail defect detection. A prototype
has been designed and field tested with the support of Volpe National Transportation Systems Center and ENSCO, Inc.
The goal of this project is to develop a rail defect detection system that provides (a) better defect detection reliability
(including internal transverse head defects under shelling and vertical split head defects), and (b) higher inspection speed
than achievable by current rail inspection systems. This effort is also in direct response to Safety Recommendations
issued by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) following the disastrous train derailments at Superior, WI in
1992 and Oneida, NY in 2007 among others. The UCSD prototype uses non-contact ultrasonic probing of the rail head
(laser and air-coupled), ultrasonic guided waves, and a proprietary real-time statistical analysis algorithm that maximizes
the sensitivity to defects while minimizing false positives. The current design allows potential inspection speeds up to 40
mph, although all field tests have been conducted up to 15 mph so far. This paper summarizes (a) the latest technology
development test conducted at the rail defect farm of Herzog, Inc. in St Joseph, MO in June 2010, and (b) the completion
of the new Rail Defect Farm facility at the UCSD Camp Elliott Field Station with partial in-kind donations from the
Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway.