Drones Help Railroads Go Digital in Estonia
Estonian Railways is a state-owned company that is responsible for Estonia’s railway administration, which has been responsible for ensuring the smooth operation, management and maintenance of the country’s railway infrastructure since 1870. It has selected Hexagon’s Geospatial division to implement a transportation system that will use drones to automate and digitize the railway’s infrastructure maintenance, construction and traffic management processes as they are creating 3D models of assets.
The combined asset management system and GIS platform should be able to support the company’s more than 700 employees to efficiently manage assets and workflows.
Estonian Railways will be able to visualize assets on a map while integrating with other companies and external systems, which are powered by Hexagon’s GeoTRAMS, a web-based system for tram and light-rail infrastructure, and GeoMedia, a flexible GIS management platform. Hexagon’s state-of-the-art registry will serve multiple information systems and users at the same time as they centralize the use of aset and spatial data while avoiding data duplication and making sure that users have access to the most up-to-date information.
Hepta Airborne can send the drone and examine the insulators along the railway line and capture data of the damaged ones or those who are not connected properly, which makes it possible for a team to fix only the parts that require it, instead of manually going around checking every single one.
Andrus Alas, the head of electricity networks in Estonian Railways, said:
“Railway utility inspection is currently conducted visually by our employees visiting the objects on-site. Our wish is to automate this process and find ways to evaluate utilities’ conditions using modern solutions. The Estonian Railway has a strong interest in developing data systems to have a good overview of the infrastructure. Therefore we were glad to conduct a pilot project with Hepta Airborne. Our goal is to digitize the whole railway grid in Estonia to improve inspection and maintenance.”*
The drones were required to operate in cold temperatures because of the country’s location, which is actually a big benefit for the thermal cameras, because the higher the difference between the ambient temperature and the insulator, the easier it is to detect when something is not operating properly.
Since one of the problems was the small amount of daylight time, fortunately, storm inspections, LiDAR, and thermal photos can be conducted even in the nighttime, however, high-resolution photos and orthomosaics do require daylight. Yet, the goal — to get actionable data for setting a better focus for future inspections — was achieved.
Hepta’s CEO, Henri Klemmer, explained:
“Mapping railway infrastructures takes precision, and solutions that add speed to the manual work are in demand. Data gathered with drones and analyzed by Hepta Airborne in uBird software provides additional input for EVR internal geoinformation system, which maps their assets.”*
Estonian Railways used a fragmented system of disparate software applications to manage assets and infrastructure across its 750 miles of railroad, 129 platforms and 60 stations before selecting Hexagon. With the new solution in place, Estonian Railways will be able to improve operational efficiency and transparency, better control expenses connected to the infrastructure and streamline administrative tasks.
Mladen Stojic, president of Hexagon’s Geospatial division, said:
“Estonian Railways is forward-thinking in its use of location intelligence for managing infrastructure and operations. We are excited to deliver an integrated solution that will help the railway effectively monitor and maintain its masses which also ensures successful management of rail traffic, construction projects and services.*
By using drones to digitize railway assets, Estonian Railways was wise to select Hexagon’s Geospatial division to implement a transportation system that will use drones to automate and digitize the railway’s infrastructure maintenance, construction and traffic management processes as they are creating 3D models of assets.
With the new solution in place, Estonian Railways will be able to improve operational efficiency and transparency, better control expenses connected to the infrastructure and streamline administrative tasks.
Hexagon’s state-of-the-art registry will centralize the use of asset and spatial data while avoiding data duplication and making sure that users have access to the most up-to-date information.