On behalf of ÖBB-Infrastruktur AG, SmartDigital has tested the possible use of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) for the control of difficult-to-access railway routes. […]
For the first time, a UAS flew a total distance of 30 km in just 26 minutes out of sight of the pilots in Gesäuse, Styria.
Railway facilities and the associated infrastructure must be subjected to regular inspections. Until now, these have been walked and examined by an experienced team on foot, as required. In addition to the regular inspection activities, however, unforeseen natural events such as rockfalls or fallen trees may occur, which require a quick clarification of the situation.
Automated BVLOS flights (Beyond Visual Line Of Sight) could be used for regular routine and event-related inspections in the future. In order to prove the feasibility of this “new” type of inspections, ÖBB-Infrastruktur AG has carried out a first successful test in Gesäuse with SmartDigital.
However, flying inspectors will not replace people, as Alexander Schuster, CEO, SmartDigital, explains: “Of course, inspections will not be possible in the future without the use of specialists, but they will be significantly relieved by the UAS. In the future, these could be guided to the inspection points in an even more targeted and precise manner.
This flight was checked by the aviation authority AustroControl to ensure that the flight is carried out in accordance with SORA.
UAS application scenarios with SmartDigital
“Our goal is to effectively offer regular inspection activities and natural hazard management along railway lines, even in difficult terrain such as that of the Gesäuse. With the help of specialized and fully integrated sensors, the condition of tracks, masts, overhead lines, rockfall nets or protective structures can be examined. For this reason, we have invested in new high-quality flight systems from Austria and have applied for an operator certificate from Austro Control,“ says Alexander Schuster, CEO of the SmartDigital Group.
For BVLOS flights by SmartDigital, data is collected several times per second, documented in a blockchain in a forgery-proof manner and automatically processed in a highly scalable IT platform specially developed by SmartDigital and made available to the customer. This unique end-to-end approach, from ordering a flight to the desired evaluation on one platform, enables customers to completely new, digital asset management of their infrastructure.