Telemetry keeps railway freight rolling in Brazil

| Transport

Real-time telemetry data from locomotives provides visibility and monitoring capability across the rail network

Brazilian railway operator uses satellite broadband network for real-time train telemetry data transmission

The global satellite broadband network (BGAN) from Inmarsat is being used in conjuncton with rail telemetry equipment and communication systems from the Globalsat Group and Cobham support to support Rumo with the provision of data connectivity to improve reliability and uptime across the entire Brazilian railway network.

Brazilian Rail Operator

Operating across South America in both Argentina and Brazil, Rumo is the largest railway operator in its home country of Brazil and provides logistics services for rail transport and port operations as well as storage and warehousing.

Within its field of operations, it is responsible for twelve trans-shipment terminals and six port terminals. It also manages and operates on around 13 thousand kilometres of railways in several states across the country including Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul, São Paulo Mato Grosso.

Its capabilities are driven by a total of nearly 1000 locomotives, 28,000 freight wagons and lifting equipment with a combined capacity of 19 million tons. With nearly 12,000 employees, Rumo is a major employer in the south American country.

With so much equipment and track miles to cover, reliability is essential and Rumo has invested in modern equipment and systems for monitoring critical operating parameters so that it can predict maintenance requirements before failure occurs.

Remote Operations

In Brazil, the railway system is essential for the transport of agricultural, industrial and container cargo to serve the export, import and domestic markets. Responsible for connecting the largest production centres to the main ports in the country, Rumo transported 58 million tons in 2019.

Much of this volume was transported through the main rail corridor in Brazilian agribusiness, which connects the state of Mato Grosso to the Port of Santos, the largest port complex in Latin America.

As most of its railways pass through remote regions of Brazil, one of the main challenges that Rumo has been faced with for several years is efficient network coverage.

Connectivity difficulties in certain locations prevented drivers, railway engineers and control centres from communicating in real time, as messages sent could take more than ten minutes to be delivered. Since trains could not continue their journey until they received updates from control centres, operations were subject to delays and fuel costs with unnecessary braking and starting.

Reliable, fast and constantly available real time connectivity for the telemetry systems and for voice communications therefore became essential.

Seamless Connectivity

In response to Rumo’s challenges Globalsat do Brasil, Inmarsat and Cobham SATCOM joined forces to offer a tailored communication and telemetry system for rail networks. This enables the accurate real-time tracking of each train on the Rumo network, as well as reliable voice and data communication between drivers, maintenance teams and the Operations Control Centre (CCO).

Having begun in early 2020, by the end of 2021 the project will equip 300 of Rumos’ locomotives with Explorer 325 (BGAN) terminals, Explorer Mobile Gateways and Cobham’s PRISM PTT + service. Cobhams Private Routing Intelligent System Management (PRISM) technology provides seamless and continuous connectivity by selecting the best available network (cellular/satellite/LAN) for voice and data communications with no user intervention. It also enables interoperability between DMR, LMR and MCPTT systems ensuring the system is fully compatible with existing technology on board the locomotives.

Satellite connectivity is provided by Inmarsat’s Broadband Global Area Network service, which works through Inmarsat’s solely owned and operated, global L-band network. BGAN is trusted by governments, armed forces and companies to stay connected when everything else fails and exhibits a 99.9% uptime. The network was implemented by the service provider Globalsat do Brasil, who will also offer ongoing warranty, support and repairs on site, to ensure the optimal operation of the connectivity system.

The network ensures that Rumo has access to uninterrupted, high-quality connectivity to facilitate the transfer of telematics, voice and video data, allowing accurate real-time tracking of each train and communication between drivers, maintenance staff and regional control centres. The locomotive data is visualised in an application at the control centres, which depicts the entire railway network and the position of each vehicle, as well as its speed.

Initially the project will focus on covering all points of “Operation North”, an initiative connecting Mato Grosso to the Port of Santos. Ultimately, the structure’s intention is to provide the rest of the fleet with highly reliable BGAN connectivity, ensuring an efficient, cost-effective and secure rail network.

Efficiency Improvements

With over a year still to go before the system is completely rolled out on the network, the project has nonetheless already produced tangible results. Before implementing the system, messages between drivers and control centres took an average of ten minutes to be delivered. After the implementation of the satellite-enabled network, the team now has access to real-time communications between the drivers and the control centres. This speed of communication and reliability has brought Rumo greater visibility of its assets and infrastructure, which has resulted in significant improvements in operational efficiency.

According to Darlan Fábio De David, Vice President of Operation Norte at Rumo, the connectivity offered by the new network makes cargo transport by rail more efficient and safer.

“With the locomotives properly equipped, we will have a flow of information in real time, facilitating communication with all links in the operation and increasing the productivity of the logistics system that connects the largest grain production centre in Brazil to the Port of Santos,” he explains.

Roberto Rubio Potzmann, Chief Technology Officer at Rumo believes that working with Inmarsat, Globalsat do Brasil and Cobham SATCOM has transformed the way the company operates. “The network gave us the transparency to improve transit time performance, increase safety and ensure real-time monitoring of locomotive movement,” he says.

In addition, the reliable push-to-talk (PTT) radio is very useful in situations where the driver needs to communicate and would not be able to do so otherwise due to lack of voice coverage.

Igor Falcão, Senior Vice President of Sales at Globalsat Brasil, still expects many benefits in the long run. According to him, the expectation for the project of Globalsat do Brasil is to significantly reduce costs across the rail network, with an estimated savings of millions per month as a result of optimizing the operation and taking care to avoid unnecessary braking and acceleration.

“Additional savings are also likely because Rumo expects to transport more goods in less time without having to invest in new locomotives and new wagons,” he concludes.

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