GERMAN Railway is currently working with its principal suppliers and the German Aerospace Research Centre on the development of a next-generation current collector.

The Ultra design uses electronic control to regulate the contact pressure, improving performance at high speeds. Reliable contact at 400 km/h will only require a force of 60N against the 80N used in tests with a conventional pantograph. This is expected to double the life of the contact wire.

The other principal aim of the development programme is to reduce the aerodynamic noise generated by the collector. By encasing the lower parts of the pantograph arm in a streamlined wing, and exploiting aerodynamics noise is reduced to just 15 dB(A). The design is currently being evaluated in computer simulations, and was then subjected to full-size trials at DB’s static test centre in München. In the longer term a series of proving trials will be conducted on the national network to test the collector with a variety of overhead line equipment.