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BOB - Boots Off Ballast - Robots for safe and efficient railway maintenance

BOB is a safer and more cost-efficient digital process for railway asset inspection and interaction, based on a lightweight robot system that is capable of railway travel. The system will reduce the need for humans in the dangerous areas of railways and reduce cost of inspection and light maintenance.

Contact person

Photo: Railway Robotics AS

Current inspections of railway infrastructure are commonly done manually, or by using dedicated special-purpose rail-maintenance trains. Visits along the tracks is done by humans and mobile sensors are typically mounted on trains.

Both these approaches imply downtime of the infrastructure. Special-purpose vehicles are commonly outfitted with high-quality sensors and can capture large amounts of data at relatively high speed – but are costly both to acquire and operate. Light maintenance, such as lubrication is commonly performed manually, exposing workers to the risk of entering ballast areas of railway infrastructure.

In this project SINTEF develops automatic camera and sensor systems to enable autonomous inspection and light maintenance of railway structures, and thus reducing the need for boots (i.e. humans) on the ballast.

Key Factors

Project duration

2023 - 2025


The Research Council of Norway

Cooperation partner

Railway Robotics AS

Project type