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Fly so the train runs on time

Multicopters are already helping railway customers to reach their destination on time and the modernization of the rail network in Germany is progressing faster. Since 2015, the Deutsche Bahn multicopter team has been operating regular drones nationwide.

The DB currently uses twelve types of multicopters. The versions are differentiated, for example, according to load capacity, flight duration and operational readiness. They are equipped with cameras - for videos, high-resolution digital images or infrared images.

There are many potential applications at DB. Drones, for example, check trees on railway lines for stability, in order to detect at an early stage where branches or logs could fall onto the tracks. Even the health of the trees can be seen from the aerial photographs. The aerial photographs will be linked to other geo-data in order to be able to pinpoint the locations of dangerous trees and to initiate preventative protective measures. This is faster, more accurate and more efficient than the inspection and assessment of the routes by employees.

Multicopter use at Deutsche Bahn

Another field of application is the building inspection from the air. Drone flights over station roofs, bridges or factories are usually possible without blocking traffic routes. Time and costs for scaffolding, operational scheduling and approval procedures are saved. The railway operation is not affected by the recordings. In this way, the DB's multicopters have already gained almost unnoticed data from the air at the Fehmarnsund Bridge, at Wiesbaden Central Station or at the ICE plant under construction in Cologne-Nippes.

Drones can help accelerate construction planning. From the images of the multicopter digital 3D models of the route or the building can be calculated, for example, form an important basis for Building Information Modeling (BIM). Large-scale railway projects, such as the new Stuttgart-Ulm line, place high demands on construction management. The photos, videos and data facilitate planning and cost control. What record drones, can be digitally visualized in models and thus made easily understandable to a broad public.

Also in the security area, where it is about people in the track or graffiti sprayer, win drones in importance. With the adoption of the new drone regulation, the legal situation for drone operations has changed since April 2017 even without direct visual contact. The aircraft may now also fly at night over railway facilities with permission, also remote controlled route checks are possible.