Drone employed to inspect overhead line equipment

Network Rail uses drone to survey railway

Network Rail performed its first drone survey last Friday on the southwestern rail route near Bournemouth, England. The drone made its first flight to survey a trespass hotspot, looking to record anyone risking their lives on the train tracks.

The specially designed drone is equipped with a high-tech heat sensitive 4k camera to spot changes in temperature. This helps to identify people and potential damage to the infrastructure. It will also allow inspections to be carried out by air without closing railway. Using a drone also means a reduction in the number of times engineers are sent onto the tracks. This improves safety.

The drone will fly up to 120 meters high at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour. The images it takes are displayed on the operator’s screen and recorded directly to a USB drive so they can then be immediately transferred to British Transport Police and other authorities as necessary.

Railway drone pilot

Network Rail’s mobile incident officer, Peter Atkins, is the first trained railway drone pilot on the route from Waterloo station to the south coast. According to Network Rail, Atkins had to complete extensive training with Essex Police before qualifying to fly. “I’m delighted to be operating the first-ever railway drone flight in the region”, Atkins said. “The training was very thorough and often challenging, but completely worth the effort for the benefits this technology will bring.”

South Western Railway managing director, Andy Mellors, said: “We welcome any initiative that can improve safety and performance. Trespassing on the railway network can have tragic consequences and causes unnecessary delays. I hope that the deployment of this new technology will discourage trespassing and reduce delays for passengers.”

Author: Carlijn Kruidhof

Carlijn Kruidhof is editor for RailTech.com and SpoorPro.nl. She also writes for the other business-to-business titles of ProMedia Group.

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