Artificial intelligence-aided detection of rail defects based on ultrasonic imaging data

Weitian Li, Jingru Wang, Xuanyang Qin, Guoqing Jing, Xiang Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Railroads are one of society’s fundamental infrastructures, facilitating the transportation of passengers and goods over vast distances. Rail status data is immensely important for ensuring the safe and efficient operation of railroad networks. However, analyzing ultrasonic inspection data is a labor-intensive process and relies heavily on the expertise of experienced inspectors. To detect internal defects of the rail accurately and automatically, this paper proposes a customized image recognition method based on a convolutional neural network with limited B-scan rail image data collected within the industry. The proposed method uses EfficientNet-b7 as the backbone network to fully extract the B-scan rail image data features. With the help of transfer learning and data augmentation techniques, the backbone network is substantially enhanced so that it can understand high-level features of the object without being trained with large-scale B-scan image data. We establish a real-world internal rail defect dataset with 280 B-scan images and test our proposed method. The results reveal that the highest accuracy of the other mainstream CNN-based methods is 76.25% and the accuracy of the traditional method based on a support vector machine classifier trained with Tamura texture and LBP features is 60.00%. Our proposed EfficientNet-b7 model classifies rail defect B-scan images with an accuracy of 85.00%, precision of 84.71%, and recall of 85.00%. Compared to other rail internal defect detection methods, this method is more accurate. With the help of transfer learning and data augmentation, our proposed method achieves better performance and requires less data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)118-127
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part F: Journal of Rail and Rapid Transit
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Mechanical Engineering


  • Rail defect
  • artificial intelligence
  • computer vision
  • machine learning
  • ultrasonic imaging data


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