Inside Unmanned Systems

OCT-NOV 2016

Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.

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16 unmanned systems inside   October/November 2016 AIR RAIL INSPECTION BY THE NUMBERS The U.S. freight network consists of 140,000 rail miles operated by seven Class I railroads, 21 regional railroads and 510 local railroads. It's a $ 60 billion industry. Source: U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration nies have access to 3-D models and the ability to add 3-D analysis, O'Neil-Dunne said. This makes it possible for inspectors to see changes in any given location, whether they've noticed a new crack or a loose bolt. They can easily de- termine if defects are getting worse, enabling them to decide in real time if action needs to be taken—which is something they've never had before. Progress Rail also offers UAS services to the rail industry, deploying the md4-1000 from microdrones for long endurance f lights, the ALTA 6 drone from Freef ly for more targeted work and the Elios from Flyability, which is in- cased in a sphere, to get into tight areas from 10 to 15 feet away without exposing the drone's rotors and sensors, said Russell Metzler, the firm's manager of UAS technology. They also deploy the less expensive DJI Phantom when f lying over water or other high-risk areas. Right now, the rail companies Metzler works with are mostly interested in collecting the same imagery they're accustomed to getting from their inspectors, as well as having access to full motion videos and 3-D models, Metzler said. After collecting the data, Metzler can tell customers they found something on the north side, for example, and then give them a 3-D model highlighting exactly where on the bridge the anomaly was found. They can easily pull up the image to see exactly where they need to send the maintenance team. Clients are also excited about the possibility of using thermal imagery to check for degrading timber and to detect water that's seeped into the concrete, causing the re-enforcing rebar to rust. Deploying UAS technology will not only provide the rail industry with information in real time for faster decision making, it will also enable them to perform these inspections more often, said Aaron Lessig, CEO of Pulse Aerospace, a company that f lies these types of missions with the Vapor 55 helicopter drone. "If the rail companies use this technology on a frequent basis covering the same tracks time and time again, they'll actually begin to drive efficiencies by seeing and understanding specific issues before they become problems," Photo courtesy of Insitu Insitu's ScanEagle is launched during a BNSF test flight.

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