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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Page 21 of 71

22 unmanned systems inside   October/November 2016 AIR RAIL INSPECTION We have huge rail yards and enormous tracks with a great number of rail cars and locomo- tives. When you can see that from 200 or 300 feet, you can immediately get a sense of what's happening so you can identify issues that may be of concern and deploy people very quickly to potential trouble spots." The Challenges Railways must operate in all weather condi- tions, from heavy rain or dense fog to cold and snow. Trains travel through valleys and mountains and near oceans, so if a company like Union Pacific is going to deploy a UAS for inspections or during a disaster situation, the UAS needs a long battery life and the ability to operate in harsh conditions, Adelman said. And of course, some of the biggest benefits to the rail industry will come from the abil- ity to f ly beyond the visual line of sight of the operator. While Union Pacif ic, though interested, is sticking to in-sight operations for now, BNSF is doing research in this area. Last year, they worked with Insitu to com- plete the f irst commercial beyond-visual- line-of-sight (BLOS) UAS operation in the contiguous 48 states. During that demonstration, the ScanEagle was launched in a tower site near Vaughn, New Mexico, and in the first day covered 64 miles of the 132-stretch of track BNSF designated for the exercise. Through these flights, the ScanEagle provided BNSF Railway with full motion vid- eo and still imagery—information that can be used to create 3-D mosaics and other products to detect anomalies or problems with the track, said Charlton Evans, commercial and civil UAS program manager for Insitu. While they could only use limited systems on board because of the classification of the aircraft, Insitu was able to provide BNSF with vital information about the track's condition. The f lights were part of the FAA's Pathfinder program, and the ScanEagle is one of many UAS BNSF has tested for use in BLOS appli- cations, Trevino said. The ability to f ly beyond visual line of sight opens up a host of opportu- nities including making it possible for railways to inspect lines without a truck following be- hind the aircraft, which is what they do today. No matter how the data is collected, it's critical to find a way to seamlessly feed that into the industry's existing networks includ- ing their geographic information systems, or GIS, Metzler said. It's also essential to create Photos courtesy of senseFly The senseFly albris quadcopter flies during an inspection. "WITH THE RIGHT SENSORS, they can find out more about the track environment than they currently can with ground based sensing alone." Charlton Evans, commercial and civil UAS program manager, Insitu Continued from page 18

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