Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are having a significant impact on rail infrastructure security, inspection and surveillance across the globe. Currently rail operators spend considerable funds painstakingly inspecting rail lines manually, leading to high labour costs and frequent employee accidents and fatalities. UAVs allow for more frequent inspections reducing the need for potentially dangerous human involvement, rather than replacing them altogether.
The introduction and falling costs of LIDAR technology allows for hairline crack detection overcoming the need for heavy ultrasound and helicopter equipment. Such predictive maintenance allows for faster and cheaper inspections highlighting infrastructure weaknesses before they break, saving considerable time, money and disruption to rail users by reducing potentially fatal derailments.
The biggest current obstacle to UAV use in the rail infrastructure space is the need for close-up inspections capable with the smaller multi-rotor platforms, but with longer-lasting battery life more prevalent in larger fixed-wing models.
Rail operators from across Europe including SNCF and Network Rail are attending the Commercial UAV Show 2015 to find out how this challenge is being met, and how they are currently achieving significant cost, time and safety advantages using UAV technology.
For the full Commercial UAV Show speaker line up please visit the website and download the programme.