Drones Inspecting Railway Tracks, Power Lines, And More – Intelligent Living

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Humans traditionally inspect live power lines and railway tracks. Workers have to climb poles, stand in bucket lifts, and ride in helicopters to get close to the lines or even touch them when checking power lines. It’s a dangerous, challenging, and expensive procedure.
At the same time, railway track inspections have to be performed when no trains are nearby, as stretches of rail lines need to be closed off to make way for inspection vehicles, such as trolleys or rail-wheel-equipped trucks. As a result, sometimes trains get delayed.
Drones can address these issues by performing the tasks for humans, making inspections safer, quicker, easier, and cheaper.
While some drone-based power line inspection systems already exist, the lines usually can’t be directly touched by any drone-mounted tools during the inspection process because they could get tangled in the lines and possibly cut through them. In addition, electromagnetic fields emitted by the lines could adversely affect the drones, causing them to lose contact with their operators.
With this in mind, Virginia-based drone tech company Linebird developed the Osprey Nonconductive Payload System (NPS). The system is compatible with existing industrial multi-copter drones that can lift a payload of at least 2.3 kg (5 lb), such as Inspired Flight IF1200 model, DJI Matrice 600 Pro, and Freefly Systems – Alta X.
Osprey NPS comprises a stabilizing triangular frame attached to the drone’s undercarriage, three non-conductive cables that suspend from that frame’s corners, and an Ohmstik lineman’s tool attached to the bottom ends of those hanging cables. As the drone flies along a live power line’s length, the Ohmstik can regularly descend into direct contact with splices or other potentially defective connections within it to check their electrical resistance.
Finally, a release mechanism allows the system to be ditched if the drone experiences problems or when it’s done inspecting the lines and is coming in for a landing. Linebird expects to have the Osprey NPS available soon via its website. First, however, you can see it in action in the video below.

While track inspections need to be performed when no trains are near, the rail-riding Staaker BG-300 Railway Drone offers an alternative – it just flies off the tracks when trains approach.
The BG-300, developed by Norwegian company Nordic Unmanned, is a fuel-cell-powered multi-copter drone that features four motorized rail wheels. It can cruise along a rail line at an average speed of 12 mph (20 km/h). The robot can operate on the railway for around 7 hours, traveling up to 124 miles (200 km) at a time, a distance equivalent from Amsterdam to Brussel.
As the railway robot inspects the tracks, it utilizes cameras and other sensors and lubricates rail switches if needed. If it encounters any other rail traffic, such as an incoming train, it will autonomously fly off the tracks to get out of the way until that traffic passes. This functionality is also utilized when the drone moves from one track to another. As a result, inspections do not require stretches of rail lines to be closed off to trains.
According to the Norwegian company, the drone was manufactured with “a large European national railway infrastructure owner.” The BG-300 is expected to begin commercial service in Europe as of next year.
Watch the BG-300 in action in the video below.

Remote-controlled drones are assisting maintenance workers in the subway tunnels of the Tokyo Metro system. Last year, the Tokyo Metro Co. showed reporters a demonstration of how it’s utilizing inspection drones to improve the safety of tunnels. On February 6th, 2020, the drones were launched on the Hanzomon Line at the Koto Ward facility in Tokyo. Since then, the Tokyo Metro company has used them to inspect their tunnels.
The drone looks similar to Flyability’s Elios 2 inspection drone; a sphere cage surrounds it, and a bright LED light and camera are attached to it. The plastic sphere around the drone protects it from potential bumps and knocks while it’s navigating. The drone is 8.5-inch wide, weighs 2.5-pounds (1.15kg), and can fly at an altitude of 164 feet (50 meters) for up to five minutes.
The Tokyo Metro subway network consists of almost 121 miles (191km) of nine independent lines under Tokyo. Currently, these lines are inspected by maintenance workers, who need to use scaffolding and other heavy equipment. These inspection drones would achieve accurate inspections and reduce the need for these traditional methods of investigation.

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