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Drones for Railways: avoid track possession.

Value drivers for Railways: avoid track possession. Count in days and not in weeks.

In Europe, Digital Railways has been a major focus of attention, with an objective to improve passenger experience but also competitivity vs other means of transport. In this context, a number of railway companies have started their “digitization from the air” and use drones as a tool to improve their efficiency and operations.

Avoid track possession

Traffic interruption impacting passenger service schedule is a major issue for rail operators. As a result, inspection of tracks and maintenance works take place during a string of relatively short timeslots spread over several weeks, when track possession does not impact customer service. In the extreme case of a busy underground metro network, those slots consist of approximately 3 hours at night.

Digitize from the air. Collect accurate, engineer-grade data on the network.

In an infrastructure business, knowing your asset, understanding the capex and opex required, is key. However, such information may not be available, nor complete. Infrastructure networks have been built over decades, by different teams in different regions using different tools. Today, using drones, images can be collected and processed in order to create a precise 3D digital modelling replica of the network, with the engineer-grade accuracy required for most business requirements.

Avoid exposing teams to works along the tracks.

Health and Safety can be a challenge when working along the tracks, or near hazardous equipment such as electrical substations. Remote-sensing de facto limits exposure to Health & Safety incidents.

De-risk schedule.

A side-effect of track possession and works spread over multiple short timeslots is the uncertainty over the works’ schedule, due to the unpredictability of events along tracks in service. When using drones, once the data is collected, the data analysis work is performed “off-track” and the uncertainties surrounding track possession no longer apply.

Existing main use cases

Ongoing use cases are focused on optimizing operations and maintenance:

  • Topographical surveys,

  • Maintenance and monitoring of the network,

  • Local inspection of sites,

  • Monitoring during the construction phase, and

  • Emergency or crisis situation monitoring.

Anne-Lise Scaillierez


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