Rail Safety Week: The safety benefits of drones


With Rail Safety Week starting (25 September to 1 October), it is time to shine a spotlight on the lesser known safety benefits that drones provide.

While the commercial benefits around drone technology are sparking the imaginations of the rail industry, the technology is delivering a revolution for safety in rail.

Joan Heery, AECOM’s engineering director

Several major organisations are beginning to use drones for a broad range of applications, including survey data acquisition, asset condition assessment, construction monitoring and public consultation features.

After all, the use of drones can bring many advantages:

  • health and safety benefits and cost and time savings through removing the need to place staff in a position of risk yet also providing a visualisation tool to place people within a virtual environment for briefing and familiarisation purposes
  • technical benefits such as objective data collection, repeatability and overcoming constraints for challenging and higher risk access to difficult to reach zones
  • operational benefits through minimising disruptive access to sites

While drones can offer many safety advantages, critics of the technology believe that it cannot achieve levels of accuracy compared to traditional survey methods. However, recent results have shown otherwise. AECOM has used drone technology on projects and has achieved accuracies sufficient for design purposes.

During a drone survey of a railway depot in central London, we were able to achieve better than 15mm accuracy when the data was analysed with suitable survey control. Following the installation of ground control, the drone survey was completed in less than 6 hours flight time over an 11 hectare area.

Traditional methods would have taken eight to 10 weeks, due to the survey time required and operational constraints of the site. The drone survey also had the advantage of capturing information and measurements of track furniture, buildings and other features, not simply the ground level detail. Similar results have been achieved from surveys carried out across our rail and road networks.

As well as misconceptions around accuracy of results, there is nervousness regarding drones distracting drivers of trains and vehicles. However, drones typically operate at an altitude of greater than 50m, which removes the risk of line of sight and any distraction to drivers.

In recognition of the safety factors surrounding drone operations, AECOM has recently gained permission from the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to overfly highways.

This demonstrates that the safety risks associated to drone operations over infrastructure are low.

Although the use of drones is gaining popularity in the construction industry as a cost and labour-saving tool, adoption is not widespread. It will be essential for companies to invest in this kind of technology in order to drive risk mitigation of safety incidents. At AECOM, we have used drones to capture data for over five years in the UK as part of our digital solutions.

Register now for full access

Register just once to get unrestricted, real-time coverage of the issues and challenges facing UK transport and highways engineers.

Full website content includes the latest news, exclusive commentary from leading industry figures and detailed topical analysis of the highways, transportation, environment and place-shaping sectors. Use the link below to register your details for full, free access.

Already a registered? Login

comments powered by Disqus
highways jobs

Project Engineer (Permanent)

Havant Borough Council
We’re looking for an experienced and enthusiastic engineer to join our well-regarded design and implementation team. Havant, Hampshire
Recuriter: Havant Borough Council

Project Engineer (Fixed Term)

Havant Borough Council
We’re looking for an experienced and enthusiastic engineer to join our well-regarded design and implementation team. Havant, Hampshire
Recuriter: Havant Borough Council

Contract Supervisor

London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth
£31,013 - £36,486 depending on skills, knowledge and experience
The role of Contract Supervisor (Waste and Street Cleansing) will require you to support ambitious plans to provide services for residents Richmond upon Thames, London (Greater)
Recuriter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Flood Risk Manager

Birmingham City Council
£43,662 - £54,574
The role requires the post holder to be the lead professional for the Authority’s Flood Risk Management and drainage function Birmingham, West Midlands
Recuriter: Birmingham City Council

Head of Highways & Transport

Lewisham London Borough Council
up to £72,705
As our lead expert on highways and transport, you will set the direction and lead on all transport related matters Lewisham, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Lewisham London Borough Council

Ugobus Driver (multiple positions)

Essex County Council
Up to £18938.0 per annum
Please note that we have permanent, fixed term and relief contract opportunities on a part time, job share and flexible working basis. The salary is u England, Essex, Chelmsford
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Assistant Director

Hounslow London Borough Council
Up to £82k
Working across a wide range of high profile direct services, the emphasis for this role is on partnership working. Hounslow (City/Town), London (Greater)
Recuriter: Hounslow London Borough Council

Head of Parks and Environmental Services

Harrogate Borough Council
£58,778 - £61,882
You will have experience at a senior level in the management and delivery of front line services relevant to the functions Harrogate, North Yorkshire
Recuriter: Harrogate Borough Council

Programme Technician/Engineer

Norfolk County Council
£29,636 - £31,371 per annum
This is a challenging position which involves working across wide ranging activities. Norwich, Norfolk
Recuriter: Norfolk County Council

Principal Transport Planner – 2 posts (Warrington Waterfront Western Link)

Warrington Borough Council
£40,760 - £43,662 plus essential car user allowance
We are looking to form a new Warrington Waterfront Western Link Team and we are looking to fill a number of key posts Warrington, Cheshire
Recuriter: Warrington Borough Council

Director of Integrated Transport

Liverpool City Region
Salary up to £124,848
The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority is embarking on a search for an exceptional individual with the passion to deliver on our vision Liverpool, Merseyside
Recuriter: Liverpool City Region

Highways Manager

Oxford Direct Services
Oxford Direct Services
Recuriter: Oxford Direct Services

Data Entry Administrator

Telford & Wrekin Council
£18,795 - £19,171
Telford & Wrekin’s Public Protection Service is looking for an enthusiastic and self-motivated Data Entry Administrator Telford, Shropshire
Recuriter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Transport Planner

Camden London Borough Council
£33,122 to £38,423
You’ll have previous experience of working in a transport/planning/accessible transport environment Camden, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Camden London Borough Council

Parking Business Administrator Level 3 Apprenticeship

Brent Council
£15,000 p.a. inc.
This role will support the Brent Parking Team work to provide administrative support for both the Notice Processing Team Brentford (City/Town), London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Principal Engineer (Development)

Liverpool City Council
£37,849 - £42,683
Liverpool City Council wish to recruit a Principal Engineer (Development) to provide managerial and technical support. Liverpool, Merseyside
Recuriter: Liverpool City Council

Team Leader x2 - Passenger Transport

Redbridge London Borough Council
£27,228 - £28,215 per annum
You will be responsible for overseeing the duties of Passenger Transport drivers as well as providing support to the service and managers. Redbridge, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Redbridge London Borough Council

UTMC Engineer

Warrington Borough Council
£31,371 - £34,788
You will support the UTMC Principal Engineer and work as part of a team responsible for all aspects of Urban Traffic Management and Control Warrington, Cheshire
Recuriter: Warrington Borough Council

Programme Assurance Manager Public Realm

Westminster City Council
£46,293 - £49,203 per annum
A graduate, or have equivalent experience, and you can show evidence of continued professional, managerial and personal development... City of Westminster, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Westminster City Council

Project Manager (LED Project)

Camden London Borough Council
£40,829 - £47,360
Seking a knowledgeable and engaging Project Manager to lead, shape and steer a professional engineering service.   Camden, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Camden London Borough Council