PASSENGER TRAIN SAFETY — Rep. Richard L. Hanna talks about a federal grant of nearly $1 million received by Rome-based Andro Computational Solutions, LLC, to study improving passenger train travel. With him is Andrew L. Drozd, Andro’s president and chief scientist, and, Mayor Joseph R. Fusco Jr., and Ashwin Amanna, principal investigator. (Sentinel photo by John Clifford)

Rome firm embarks on $1M rail study

Published Jun 5, 2015 at 4:10pm

A nearly $1 million federal research grant to study a promising technology intended to improve the safety of passenger train travel has been awarded to Andro Computational Solutions, LLC.

Andrew L. Drozd, firm founder, president and chief scientist, made the announcement today at the company’s headquarters in The Beeches Office Park with Rep. Richard L. Hanna, R-22, Barneveld, Ashwin Amanna, principal investigator at Andro, and Mayor Joseph R. Fusco Jr.

The application of technology to enhance passenger rail safety has heightened in recent weeks due to last month’s Amtrak passenger train derailment outside of Philadelphia. Eight passengers were killed in the derailment. A two-page preliminary report estimates damage from the crash at more than $9.2 million.

Andro will perform research for the Federal Railroad Administration to study the communications side of positive train control, a technology that can prevent trains from derailing because of excessive speed. The company sought the grant prior to the rent Amtrak accident.

“I applaud the Federal Railroad Administration for taking steps to fund research of such critical importance,” said Drozd. “This work, led by Andro’s principal investigator Dr. Ashwin Amanna, in cooperation with our partner Adirondack Scenic Railroad as well as future railway stakeholders, is expected to reap major benefits toward implementing positive train control systems that are designed to ensure rail transportation operational and communications efficiency, security, passenger safety and reliability.”

Part of Andro’s work will also focus on the use of a higher efficiency radio spectrum in conjunction with a reduced bandwidth authentication method to distinguish legitimate users from illegitimate users. Specifically, the technology that Andro is developing could be used to detect and defeat wireless cyber threats to railway systems. Adirondack Scenic Railroad trains will be used to test Andro’s work.

“This is tremendous news for Andro and for the Mohawk Valley,” said Hanna, who serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials. “Right here in Rome, N.Y., this cutting edge research is taking place and our nation stands to benefit.”

Amtrak has high hopes for the safety technology. CEO Joseph Boardman told a House transportation committee hearing on Tuesday that equipping trains with positive train control is the “single greatest contribution my generation of railroaders can make.” Boardman, a native of Taberg, maintains a residence in Rome.

On Friday, Hanna said there is a desperate need in the U.S. for improving railroad safety.

“Proudly, a hometown company, Andro, is taking the lead on developing a technology that has the potential to help improve the safety of passenger rail, especially in the busiest traveled route in the nation, the Northeast Corridor. Congratulations to Mr. Drozd and his team at Andro.”

The objective of positive train control systems is to prevent train-to-train collisions, overspeed derailments and incursions into roadway work limits. The technology sends and receives a continuous stream of data transmitted by wireless signals about the location, speed and direction of trains.

Drozd said his firm’s work on commanding and controlling train movements is an example of leveraging and commercializing technology developed at the nearby Air Force Research Laboratory at Griffiss.

Andro employs more than 30 people locally and expects to add more jobs. Founded in 1994, the privately owned company focuses on research, development and the application of advanced computer software for a variety of applications. It provides consulting, engineering and technical services to defense and commercial industries.