30 April 2022

The use of drones on the railroads

drone monitoring of railways

Client characteristic

In Poland people have been traveling by rail for almost 200 years. In the Kingdom of Poland, the first connection was launched in 1845 – it was a section of the Warsaw-Vienna railway.

Nowadays, the length of railway lines managed by PKP (Polish Railway Lines – public enterprise established in September 24, 1926) is over 20 thousand kilometers. Poland ranks third in the EU in terms of the length of railway lines (right after Germany and France). The total length of railway lines in Europe is approx. 201 thousand kilometers, and in the US approx. 290 thousand kilometers.

Rail transport is quite important, because from all modes of transport it has a real impact on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. It includes the passenger transport segment as well as the freight transport segment.

Constant development of the infrastructure and improvements of the quality of service provided by carriers have resulted in a significant upward trend in the case of passenger transport in recent years.


What problems is the client faced with?

The railway infrastructure includes: tracks, railway lines, and railway stations. Unfortunately, with each year the number of acts of vandalism or incursions is increasing. Theft most often concerns freight trains carrying ore material and also traction cables.

uas for railways

Especially during the night and in densely forested areas it is difficult to find an effective monitoring system. Damage to the infrastructure can also occur due to weather conditions or too rich vegetation in the close vicinity of the railway. It reduces visibility and also poses a real threat to rail traffic eg. when an old rotten tree is not removed on time and blocks the passage on the track. 

The railway system all around the world is constantly growing. New projects arise, they also require control in terms of progress of work and their implementation in accordance with the schedule.


What problems can be solved with drones?

During the flight the drone can transmit video in real time. This solution allows the operator to quickly detect irregularities and to intervene equally quickly. Drones, equipped with a thermal camera, during flights performed in the night are able to detect intruders and prevent thefts and acts of vandalism. They can also be used to examine the technical condition of overpasses and bridges. These kinds of inspections can include sections that are hard to reach for a human, and it requires a great deal of human and financial resources.

bsp for railways

Based on photogrammetrical data collected by UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), sophisticated algorithms that use Artificial Intelligence to detect and identify objects, as well as people. It allows monitoring of long sections of infrastructure in a short period of time. Such algorithms automatically detect irregularities in the traction (trees, obstacles in passages, damages, etc.) Thanks to the advanced technology railway services are becoming safer and more reliable.

Orthophotomap is a cartographic image of the area, which is created by projecting aerial images collected by an UAV or a manned airplane. Thanks to these high-resolution images of the terrain, progress of works or conservation is clearly presented. They allow to look at the entire area from a broader perspective, making it easier to detect potential threats and irregularities.

It is estimated that the shares of drones on the railway market reached almost 4 billion USD. Countries such as: France, Spain, Netherlands, Norway, Germany and the United Kingdom have learned about the benefits of introducing advanced technology to monitor the railway lines. In Norway UAVs are actively used to carry out inspections of the technical infrastructure, which leads to very quick maintenance works on the rails. In contrast, in the UK, they are used to aid law enforcers to identify and prevent suicide attempts.

drones used on railways


What are the benefits of using drones for monitoring?

The introduction of UAVs into the railway industry, ensures an improvement in the quality of services provided by the carriers, and thus higher revenues, increase in the satisfaction of customers who use the railway system more often.

Automation of the monitoring process allows you to limit and optimize the management of financial resources. Operational problems related to the need to intervene or control in places where human access can be limited, are reduced.

On the other hand, algorithms based on artificial intelligence ensure automation of the process of data collection and detection of irregularities without the need to manually browse the data.

unmanned aerial vehicles in railroad



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