Latest Rail News

27.01.15

Network Rail awards drone framework contract

Network Rail has awarded a framework contract to four companies to use drones to perform infrastructure inspections and land surveys.

The three-year national framework agreement, signed in December, will see Cyberhawk, AM-UAS, Resource Group and Richard Allitt Associates provide Remotely Operated Aerial Vehicle (ROAV) services. Network Rail will use the map data provided by the drones to improve track maintenance and boost field worker efficiency while reducing the amount of working at height required on Network Rail’s assets.

It will also be used as part of the Offering Rail Better Information Services (ORBIS) scheme, which includes capturing detailed photographs in 3D and cross-sections so employees can pull up a map of the network, complete with minute details. ORBIS used data from the national Aerial Survey to produce the first version of its mapping tool, the GEO-RINM (Rail Infrastructure Network Model), but will use drones to update the maps regularly.

Network Rail spokesman Dan Donovan said bigger changes are on the horizon too, telling us: "We would like to bring this service in-house. We don’t own any UAVs or pilots; at the moment, we’re subcontracting it out to these four [companies]. They know we would like to bring it in-house eventually, and we are working with them to see what is the best way of doing that.

“Instead of using a helicopter to do these jobs, which is incredibly expensive per hour, we could turn it around in an hour – send up 'one man in a van' with a UAV to get the job done. It’s quicker, cheaper and safer. It’s something we’d love to do in the near future.”

Cyberhawk uses ROAVs, also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) or drones, to provide high-quality inspection and land survey information to the oil and gas, renewable and utilities sectors. The contract with Network Rail is its first foray into transport.

Craig Roberts, Cyberhawk CEO, said: “This contract underlines the huge benefits of information provided by ROAVs in complex industrial settings.

“Network Rail recognised the potential for this technology several years ago and have been very forward thinking in setting up this national framework agreement. Cyberhawk’s remote aerial surveys and inspections will help to reduce the need for working at height and minimise disruption to customers.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

Comments

Dominic Woolnough   30/01/2015 at 12:48

Interesting development - I'm currently reviewing the applicability, approval process and certification requirements for this activity on RISQS which is not as yet a recognised rail inductry audited service.

Geoff Parsons   15/10/2016 at 19:33

The Indian railways are using drones for inspection and other purposes and in Australia a major mining company is trialling a unmanned ground vehicle system aka drone train to haul minerals. In the UK safety is a major concern of the CAA and various safeguards are required of commercial drone service operators - a) qualified pilots, b) insurance, c) compliance with dronelaw for flying and d) good quality operations.

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