DB Cargo: Dog robot inspects wagons

DB Cargo: Dog robot inspects wagons
© Deutsche Bahn AG / Stefan Wildhirt

The digital tool Spot, a walking robot, was unveiled at the freight station in Mainz, where it will help identify wagons and inspect axles.


In the realm of vehicle maintenance, a digital transformation is reshaping the landscape. Advanced digital tools not only alleviate employees from tedious routine checks but also liberate valuable time for crucial repair tasks. At DB Cargo, an array of cutting-edge technologies is already at play, ranging from automated wheelset measuring systems and AI-powered camera bridges to underfloor robots. The latest addition to this technological arsenal is Spot, the walking robot, marking yet another stride toward innovative and efficient maintenance practices. Equipped with sophisticated cameras, sensors and AI, Spot can identify freight wagons and perform visual inspections to detect damage to the train.

© Deutsche Bahn AG / Stefan Wildhirt
© Deutsche Bahn AG / Stefan Wildhirt

The four-legged robot, which resembles a dog, is an advanced industrial product from Boston Dynamics. It can be used in a variety of places that are difficult or dangerous for humans to access, such as underneath trains. The remote maintenance software comes from German start-up Energy Robotics, which is adapting the system to DB's specific requirements and leasing it as a "robot as a service". Spot weighs 25 kilograms, is 84 centimetres tall and can reach a speed of up to six kilometres per hour. It is also extremely robust and more agile than any previous robot. The walking robot is now being used for the first time at DB.

© Deutsche Bahn AG / Stefan Wildhirt
© Deutsche Bahn AG / Stefan Wildhirt

Spot is undergoing a 6-week test phase, which will focus on two applications. First, it will identify wagons using RFID (a process for automatically identifying objects by radio) and identify text on two tracks. Then it will visually inspect axles in the maintenance pit of the freight wagon depot. The walking robot can reduce walking distances by half, objectify inspection results and increase safety by eliminating the need for human workers to enter the pit. This relieves workers of physically demanding tasks, freeing them for more productive activities. It also reduces maintenance costs and helps compensate for the shortage of skilled workers. If the trial is successful, walking robots like Spot could take over these tasks at four DB Cargo facilities in the future. The robots could also be used for other tasks, such as the detection of loose brake hoses and leaks in freight wagons.

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