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DIFCAM Evolution


NPL Management Limited

DIFCAM Evolution is a development of the previous InnovateUK DIFCAM project that established the practicality of combining high resolution imagery with
shape measurement to enable change in tunnel condition to be measured for the purpose of tunnel examination, evaluation and management.
DIFCAM Evolution presents an opportunity to build on the solid foundations of knowledge and experience already gained from the original DIFCAM project,
further developing the technologies used, enhancing and expanding capabilities in key areas such as subsurface defect detection and automatic defect
recognition, and positional reproducibility using RailLoc. It will also provide a road-map for the integration of the successful technologies to deliver Network
Rail’s aspiration for fully automated tunnel examinations that can replace manual inspection techniques.
DIFCAM Evolution will demonstrate feasibility and be a test bed for several data gathering technologies that would be needed for automated tunnel
examination. These fit broadly into the categories of positional measurement and control, visual examination of the tunnel intrados, measurement of tunnel
shape, determination of sub-surface defects and other important ‘features of interest’ such as lining thickness and quality, ground contact with the extrados
and the presence of shaft eyes, for example. The development phase will combine trials of a range of non-destructive evaluation techniques alongside the
cutting-edge systems provided by our technology partners, with varying technology readiness levels.
The new types of data generated by the DIFCAM Evolution system will provide new opportunities for creating value and supporting the management of
tunnel assets. As part of the project, processes will be developed for data fusion and analysis, including the automated identification and classification of
defects in accordance with Network Rail’s TCMI specification, which will be reviewed with a view to extending and enhancing it to make the most of the
system’s capabilities.
The project will deliver a report which includes a critical review of the work carried out and its results, identifying key activities for further development and
associated challenges and opportunities, with a road-map for future deployment and commercialisation to achieve Network Rail’s objective of fully automated
tunnel examination that considers not only technological development but also the challenges and opportunities presented by regulatory requirements, safety
and technical/operational standards.
This will directly support Network Rail in aligning the management of tunnel assets with their corporate objectives, delivering outputs in a safe and
sustainable way while balancing life cycle costing with initial affordability.The exposure of rail workers to hazards and improvement of their wellbeing by
reducing requirements to do monotonous work at anti-social times and in dirty and unpleasant environments will also be minimised through significant
reduction in the requirement for ‘boots on the ballast’ examinations.