Technology Focus: The threat and opportunity of drone use

A drone is any unmanned vehicle, remotely operable or autonomous, that is capable of various tasks from simple travel to complex programmable missions. The term “drone” encompasses Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) and Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV). Drones can be fitted with equipment such as cameras and sensors for monitoring, can be equipped with payloads, and often use GPS for stabilisation and tracking. This report will be focusing on UAV Drones.

UAVs have great potential value for rail as a quick and easy means of inspecting large areas, allowing the monitoring of infrastructure for maintenance and security purposes. Network Rail recently used a drone called “the orange hornet” to monitor the rebuilding of 100 meters of infrastructure when it was damaged by winter storms. In Poland, the rail industry is using thermal imaging cameras for remote surveillance to prevent theft of coal from stationary freight trains. Drones could also allow detection of trespassers or hazards beyond the vanishing point of a normal train operator and increase system safety.

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