French technology group Thales is developing a concept of special drones for Automatic Train Operation (ATO). The air vehicles will be equipped with advanced optronics, infra-red sensors and other integrating leading technologies. The drones will fly ahead of the autonomous trains monitoring the tracks and switches.
ATO will become the new segment of the railway industry for drones. Currently, air vehicles are used mostly by infrastructure managers in monitoring the track condition and allow them to reduce their costs for maintenance. “The more regularly railway infrastructures can be inspected, the more railway safety, reliability and on-time performance will be improved. Costs would be cut and operations would be more efficient across the board,” explained Pierre-Antoine Benatar, Marketing Manager for Thales’ Transportation Activities.
Also, the drones are used to monitor the high-voltage electrical lines. “They could do precisely the same thing to inspect railway catenary lines and other vital aspects of rail infrastructure such as the alignment of tracks and switching points,” said Pierre-Antoine Benatar.