If you need to inspect railroad track for dimensional accuracy, an obvious safety issue, you want the best inspection tools available. If you are a lender and need data on a property to do an estimate of value, you want the best tools available. In the first case, a physical inspection is necessary while the lender might be satisfied with an accurate virtual inspection. Both are possible with today’s technology.

Norfolk Southern is the first North American freight railroad to develop and deploy an autonomous track geometry measurement system that is mounted on a locomotive. In contrast, autonomous track-inspection systems commercially available today are installed on converted freight or passenger rail cars, which require an external power source to operate and occupy space on a train that could be used to move revenue-producing freight.

Norfolk Southern’s track inspection group, part of the Engineering Department, developed the system to provide a more robust and cost-effective way to continuously monitor track performance in near real-time. The system is mounted in a ruggedized box under a six-axle road locomotive between the snowplow and the first set of wheels. A computer that powers the system is housed inside the electrical locker in the locomotive cab. The autonomous system supplies timely and accurate data needed for track maintenance and capital budgeting. The system facilitates compliance with both Norfolk Southern and Federal Railroad Administration track safety standards.

Defense industry firms were contacted to find commercially available components to build the system. The lasers, gyros, accelerometers, and global positioning system sensors can detect defects or anomalies in track geometry, including track gauge (the distance between rails) and the elevation and curvature of the track. The system transmits inspection data wirelessly to office locations, where track geometry engineers confirm potential defects and notify track maintenance personnel.

On the virtual inspection side, mortgage and financial technology provider SharperLending released its latest Verisite mobile property inspection tools that lenders use to gather property data for collateral valuation on loans and sub-loan products that do not require full appraisals. The new version provides lenders with a more precise order assignment feature that includes the creation and management of panels of data gatherers, in-app distance mapping for room dimensions, and more report data.

The result is an enhanced photo report deliverable with more data that lenders can use to make accurate financial decisions on equity loans, disaster relief inspections, new construction progress evaluations, portfolio reviews, and more. Typical Verisite photo report deliverables return to the lender hours after placing the order.

Verisite provides a faster way to get interior and exterior property photos and descriptions for loans and sub-loan products that don’t require a traditional appraisal form. It is available within the Appraisal Firewall real estate appraisal platform, as well as through various loan origination software systems. Appraisal Firewall is residential and commercial real estate appraisal software for lenders to manage their own appraisal process.

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