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Arc detection in DC railway systems

Arc detection in DCElectric ArcsPantograph-Catenary detachmentPredictive maintenance


In the electric railway system, an electric arc occurs due to a gap between the pantograph and the power line. A large number of such events can cause damage to both the pantograph and the overhead contact line. Their detection distributed on all the traction systems is a fundamental part of the predictive maintenance paradigm applied to the pantograph-catenary current collection system.

Technical features

The electric arc event is a phenomenon that has been studied for years using expensive camera-based equipment and digital processing. The proposed methodology instead exploits the conducted effects triggered by the arc which cause oscillations of the voltage and current signals to the pantograph. It can be easily implemented in existing energy measurement systems on board trains. This methodology enables real-time monitoring of arc flash events occurring in railway systems. Its widespread diffusion, combined with the data collection system already available for energy billing, will provide a valid tool for the predictive maintenance of the pantograph-catenary current collection system (TRL: 5).

Possible Applications

  • DC trains;
  • Metropolitan trains;
  • Tramway.


  • Identification of number of events with a low-cost technique;
  • Easy to deploy in the energy meters;
  • Index of the usury of the pantograph;
  • Index of usury of catenary;
  • Predictive maintenance;
  • Real-time monitoring of events on the grid.