The Eurecat technology centre (a member of Tecnio) coordinates the European project Assets4Rail, which will test the use of drones to monitor the condition of rail infrastructure, such as bridges and tunnels, over the next three years. The aim of the project is to enable the detection of potential flaws while improving safety.

In the Drone Zone at this year’s edition of the Mobile World Congress, Eurecat’s Robotics Unit is exploring the roles that the drones will play within the context of the project. The drones will help analyse the condition and supervise the maintenance of rail assets in conjunction with other technologies, such as ground-penetrating radar, noise and vibration control, and Building Information Modelling (BIM), a digital 3D-modelling system.

In the words of Daniel Serrano, Eurecat’s Autonomous Systems Manager, “this project will help us to continue our development in the field of autonomous drones for infrastructure inspection and enable us to transfer that development across into other important and complementary sectors, such as the rail industry”.

“It is an example of the enormous potential of drones with regard to the automation of different tasks, and of how they can provide both safety and efficiency”, added Pepa Sedó, Eurecat’s Director of Robotics.

According to Laia Garriga, Eurecat’s Business Development Manager for Rail and Logistics, “the project will make it possible to revamp Europe’s ageing rail network while preparing for future increases in traffic, in addition to developing safe vehicles that will enable us to consolidate our desired model”.

Assets4Rail is a consortium funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme as part of the JTI Shift2Rail initiative. It comprises 19 members across 10 countries: Eurecat, AITEC, SENER and AIMEN in Spain; EURNEX, TU Berlin, Witt GmbH IndustrieElektronik, S+V Scherey and Veit in Germany; the OLTIS Group in the Czech Republic; Lietuvos Gelezinefeliai and Vilniaus Gedimino Technikos Universitetas in Lithuania; Sapienza Università di Roma and Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane in Italy; the University of Leeds in the UK; the FCC Group and AIT in Austria; Roadscanners in Finland; and BEXEL Consulting and ZAG in Slovenia.