Skeye was requested by inspection company DNVGL to inspect concrete railway portals that support the high-tension lines on a stretch between the cities of Helmond and Eindhoven in the Netherlands. The portals belong to ProRail, the organisation responsible for maintaining the railway infrastructure inn the Netherlands. The aim of the project was to asses if aerial photographs can be used to inspect these portals. There are hundreds of these portals in the Netherlands and these must all be inspected regularly for cracks. Currently this is done only when no trains are on the track.
The main issue with the current inspection method is that the only time when no rains are present in the track is at night and the whole stretch must be closed for traffic. Another issue is that at night the inspections can only be carried out using artificial light.
ProRail and DNVGL qualified this trial project as successful and have indicated that the aerial imagery gives sufficient information to be able to inspect the portals. A drone will be used more often in the future for these inspection projects. This method is after all a very safe and user-friendly method of inspection with the added advantage that railway traffic is not affected at all.
In order to satisfy all the regulatory requirements for flying a drone near a railway track a special safety coordinator was used. This coordinator would give a timely signal to the pilot when a train was approaching. The pilot would then fly the drone away from railway track and wait till the train has passed.
The drone used was the Altura Zenith ATX8 equipped with a 36 Mp camera to visualise the portals at high resolution.