FREQUENTIS has formed a partnership with Austrian State Railways (ÖBB) to investigate the use of drones to carry out faster, more efficient and more frequent track inspections.

The innovation partnership will enable research to be carried out into hangar-based drone operations in Austria which will be used to detect damage to railway infrastructure and other potential hazards. The drones can also be used to assess emergency situations, monitor shunting operations and check route availability.

The partners will assess the technically complex challenges and restrictions of Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drone flights and the impact on such operations of official regulations, weather conditions and topography.

Once official approval has been obtained for trial drone flights to be conducted from ÖBB’s operations centre over an initial 12-month period, flights will be carried out to inspect routes on a weekly basis. ÖBB hopes that this will enable it to continuously improve operations while Frequentis expects to gain valuable insights to guide future improvements in drone technology.

“This cooperation is an important step for us,” says ÖBB Infrastructure board member, Mr Johann Pluy. “With the help of BVLOS flights, we will not only increase the safety of our facilities but will also be able to handle extra tasks more frequently and at lower cost in the future.”

“The drone ecosystem is currently growing rapidly, with the number of commercial use cases continuously increasing,” says Frequentis CEO, Mr Norbert Haslacher. “We are pleased to join forces with our customer ÖBB to test the operational feasibility of hangar-based automated drone flights for future-oriented railway operations in Austria.”