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Do you ever think about that a small fleet of drones can assure the safety and reliability of railways and, at the same time, help railway operators save billions of euros each year?
But current technology and innovation say that it is the very likely future of applying today’s ‘eyes in the sky’ capabilities of drones to making sure that the millions of kilometers of rail tracks and infrastructure worldwide are safe for train passengers and freight on a 24×7 basis.
Explaining on the possibilities, Pierre-Antoine Benatar, Marketing Manager for Thales’ Transportation Activities explains, “Drones are already being used to examine high-voltage electrical lines. They could do precisely the same thing to inspect railway catenary lines and other vital aspects of rail infrastructure such as the alignment of tracks and switching points. The more regularly they can be inspected, the more railway safety, reliability, and on-time performance will be improved”.
He further said that after deploying drones the costs would be cut and operations would be more efficient across the board which includes huge savings in maintenance costs and better protection of railway personnel safety.
Discussing on the present scenario it has been said that the European railways alone spend approximately 20 billion euros in a year on maintenance, including sending maintenance staff, often at night, to inspect and repair the rail infrastructure. That can be risky and dangerous work that could be avoided with the help of drones.
Thales claims that by integrating its technologies which includes advanced optronics and infra-red sensors, drones could also start providing higher-value services for railways, detecting cracks in the rail or defects in switches, before they can cause any disruption or safety hazard.
According to Thales, drones for rail don’t need to be flying overhead to perform these tasks.
Pierre-Antoine Benatar said that they are currently working on the concept of rail bot, the rail drones of the future. They will be moving on the track ahead of the train and programmed to run autonomously. With the help of connectivity and Artificial Intelligence, drones could then send in real time the information and analysis of any anomalies they detect. While undertaking infrastructure inspection, they can speed up the tasks and free-up valuable network slots for passenger and freight trains.
But the true revolution will be to use these rail bots to help make the trains themselves more autonomous. Very small drones with advanced sensors and AI and traveling ahead of the train could guide it like a co-pilot. With their ability to see ahead, they could signal any problem or obstacle, including at road crossings, so that fast-moving trains would be able to react in time.
“Be it aerial or track-bound, drones could truly become a critical part of rail safety when operators move towards autonomy in the future, and Thales is ready and when you add our expertise in air and rail traffic management to our capabilities in optronics, sensors, and artificial intelligence, it is clear that we are the preferred partner for operators who want to assure the best for their rail networks’ future”, said Benatar.
The Indian Railways has also decided to deploy drones for project monitoring. The Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) will be used to monitor railway projects, tracks maintenance, help in crowd management and oversee maintenance work across different zones.
The post NextGen Technology: How drones will change the future of railways appeared first on Urban Transport News.
This article first appeared on urbantransportnews.com
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