Back to the Future 7 – Infrastructure Inspection for Network Rail

21. May 2015

Four companies have been awarded a place on a three-year national framework agreement for UAV / drone infrastructure inspection and survey by Network Rail. Two of the professional inspection providers rely on technology from Ascending Technologies. One will prove itself indispensible: The well-established AscTec Falcon 8.

20,000 miles of track & 40,000 bridges and tunnels

The Network Rail Framework Agreement is one of the first framework contracts containing UAV / drone based infrastructure inspection and survey in the transport sector at all. Network Rail runs, maintains and develops rail tracks, signalling, bridges, tunnels, level crossings, viaducts and 18 stations in the UK –with over 20,000 miles of track and about 40,000 bridges and tunnels. The use of ROAVs will not only reduce the risky operations of RAT teams (Rope Access Technicians) on Network Rail‘s assets, but increase the speed and precision of data collection to enable cost-effective survey and inspection. Two of our customers – Cyberhawk Innovations and RUAS have been awarded a place on the national framework agreement to provide aerial infrastructure inspection and survey services. Altogether four suppliers have been selected.

The future of infrastructure inspection

The UAV / drone based infrastructure inspection service will help reducing line closures and safeguard engineers. The contract covers the complete British railway infrastructure owned and operated by Network Rail, visual and thermal inspections of overhead line equipment, structural analysis of constructions and buildings, surveys and condition assessement of viaducts, subways, bridges, tunnels and level crossings as well as embankments, dams and retaining walls.

All in all the three-year contract is a great challenge to today’s UAV / drone technology abilities. A mission of that dimension will provide essential experiences in civil drone use. Last but not least a successful operation could lead to improved security and punctuality in train traffic, due to improved railway infrastructure.

HD live video, stills & thermals for onsite analysis

The award of the contract means both, Cyberhawk Innovations and RUAS, are now authorised operators of UAVs / drones on the rail network. They will be called upon by Network Rail to deliver rail engineers live video and stills for quick onsite analysis. Providing detailled aerial imaging for accurate condition assessment, too.

It’s not the first time RUAS has provided imagery to Network Rail. After a landslip at Hatfield Colliery, South Yorkshire, UK the flying services team flew unmanned vehicles over the site to enhance situational awareness by providing engineers an aerial view of the twisted tracks from a safe distance.

“The award of the contract is a significant step in helping Network Rail to increase efficiency in maintaining its assets and minimise disruption to UK commuters and travellers. Our work with Network Rail  also takes significant steps in safeguarding the men and women who work on the rail network.” Says Chris Thomas, Service Delivery Manager for RUAS’s Unmanned Aviation Flying Services team.

Cyberhawk is the long-standing world leader in aerial inspection and surveying. Cyberhawk‘s pioneering approach and many years of engineering and land surveying experience make their work essential for some of the largest companies in the world. Indeed Cyberhawk has been one of the first professional inspection providers using Remotely Operated Aerial Vehicles (ROAVs / UAV / UAS / drone). Whether it’s a close visual inspection of a live flare stack, live transmission tower or topographic survey from the air. Cyberhawk‘s engineers and pilots work for the oil and gas industry and utility companies both onshore and offshore, in the UK, Europe, Middle East and around the globe.

UAV Innovation & UAV flight skills

Both companies use latest, most innovative UAV / drone technology piloted by experts with excellent flight skills. With our new autopilot system AscTec Trinity we want to make our contribution to that grand challenge. AscTec Trinity is nothing less than a milestone in unmanned aviation history: The first triple redundant, fully adaptive flight control unit for multi-rotor flight systems. It will make the AscTec Falcon 8 the more efficient, precise and safe.

To convince public authorities and general public from that unmanned flying machines nothing less than safe and reliable core technology and at the same time safety ensuring professional operators and professional procedures are needed.

About RUAS: RUAS (former Resource Group) is a privately owned business with its roots dating back more than 30 years. RUAS has evolved into a substantial business which offers an array of human resource-based services and solutions to technical industries. Growth has been achieved through a mix of organic development and strategic acquisition. Today RUAS employs over 250 people across the UK, Switzerland, France and Asia with over 1100 staff deployed on contracts across the globe. RUAS has four business streams comprising of Aviation and Aerospace Resourcing Solutions, Training Solutions, Technical Recruitment Solutions and Software Systems and Solutions. covering the markets Aerospace, Defence, Air Traffic Management, Aviation, Rail, National Security, Automotive and last but not least Unmanned Aviation.