Drone-based system is a ‘game changer’ for rail surveying

A Hertfordshire-based firm has developed a new drone-based surveying system that it claims will be a game changer for the rail industry

Plowman Craven’s revolutionary Vogel R3D system deploys unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to enable the comprehensive surveying of rail infrastructure to a sub-5mm accuracy.

Able to cover even the busiest and most inaccessible areas of the rail network from a working height of 25m, the system can capture track condition and measurement data from a position of safety even during traffic hours, removing the need for possessions and line blocks, and drastically reducing the exposure of workers to risk. The result is a shortening of programme times and significant cost savings.

Chris Preston, senior engineer at Network Rail, commented: “The application of the Vogel R3D system is a real game changer for Network Rail and helps us to satisfy many of our survey requirements in a safe manner without the cost implications or potential programme delays associated with multiple possessions.”

Malcolm Donald, director of Plowman Craven, said: “The Vogel R3D system really does represent a step change in the surveying of the rail environment. Not only does it massively reduce risk, cost and timeframes compared to traditional surveying methods, but the data accuracy is also superior to traditional laser-scanning systems, making Vogel R3D a very attractive proposition with a wide range of applications.

“It can also be deployed on any infrastructure project that requires remotely-captured, engineering-grade data, such as bridges or oil rigs.”

The drone incorporates a 100 megapixel camera to capture overlapping aerial images of an entire site.

Bespoke workflows and software algorithms are then used to convert the imagery into 3D point cloud data that can be used to create a range of client deliverables ranging from track alignment to interactive site visualisations.

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