Monitoring cables over the Rhine

Issue 1 2021 Surveillance

The Cologne Cable Car offers an unrivalled view of the Cologne Old Town and its cathedral. Riding in gondolas at a height of 30 metres above the ground, visitors enjoy a bird's eye view of Cologne, the Old Town, the river Rhine and the beautiful city environs. The Cologne Cable Car has featured as an established attraction of the city for over 60 years, and every year more than half a million passengers enjoy the 930 metre long aerial trip over the Rhine.

In order to ensure that the 44 cars reach the end stations in Riehl and Deutz safely from spring to autumn, the operators decided to install video security technology from Dallmeier.

The Cologne Cable Car project is the first undertaking in the world in which the patented Panomera camera technology is used to monitor a cable car carrying rope. In order to guarantee the passengers' safety at all times, the operators require rapid visual detection of possible technical problems, particularly in the structure of the carrying cable.

Carlos Castro, operations manager of Kölner Seilbahn, explains: "Besides the approach of the gondolas to the stations, we observe the way they run onto the pylons. Thirty metres up in the air, it is quite possible that a good gust of wind can set the cable and the pylons swinging. To enable early detection of incidents that cause the gondolas to approach the sensitive points out of alignment and to prevent technical problems, we decided to introduce video surveillance using Panomera camera technology."

Long distances, few installation points

The carrying rope is supported on a total of three pylons over the entire distance of just under 1 kilometre. The resulting distances between the stations and the pylons range in length from 100 metres up to 480 metres over the Rhine itself. Consequently, VTS Video Technik Systeme, which was responsible for setting up the operations, only had access to a few installation points, but at the same time, the specification in respect of imaging and resolution quality was extremely high.

Simply put, this meant that images must be recorded over very long distances, but at the same time, the image material must still be of extremely high quality. Together with the VTS, the operators of the Cologne Cable Car found the right solution in Panomera technology.

The Panomera multifocal sensor system was developed specifically to provide full area coverage over large spaces and long distances. The particular feature of the technology is that multiple sensors having different focal lengths are installed in a single housing and a special software program compiles a total image in high resolution.

In this way, huge distances and expanses can be captured with a uniform resolution raster over the entire area of interest in real time. Jürgen Vahlenkamp, managing director of VTS, explains in more detail: "This technical advantage gave us the decisive edge in view of the specified infrastructure. For video observation with the Panomera, we managed extremely well with the small number of installation points available. Thanks to the special lens and sensor concept, we do not fall below the specified resolution required, even in the more distant image areas.”

Complete control by the operator

The operator has full control over the entire situation over the entire length of the cables between the pylons, live and in high-resolution video images. In potential hazard situations, he/she can view details in a separate zoom image without losing sight of the overall action. In theory, any number of operators would be able to ‘take a close look’ at a wide range of image areas at the same time.

The wind that blows against the masts and cables 30 metres above the ground can cause them to start rocking, and poses certain challenges not only for the operation of the gondolas, but also for the installation of the cameras. To ensure that the camera systems – each weighing more than 10 kilograms – are not damaged or themselves become a hazard, the cameras were secured to the pylons using special plates. The lenses themselves are installed immovably inside the camera housing and are unaffected by any swinging motion.

In view of the special requirement of this project, the Dallmeier 3D planning team first simulated a digital twin of the entire surrounding area. With this approach, the manufacturer Dallmeier ensured that planning and real-life implementation match each other as closely as possible, and the customer benefits from the highest certainty regarding both the plan and the investment.


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