Transport for London has underlined its commitment to embracing new technology by signing off on a first-of-its kind deal to integrate drones into rail inspections.
Following a 12-month testing and approval process, Lanes Rail, part of Lanes Group plc, can now use drones as part of its maintenance work for TfL.
By using drones, Lanes Rail expects to improve data gathering, speed up the surveying process, enhance safety, reduce the risk of operational disruption, and cut surveying costs.
Lanes Rail director, Matthew Todd, said: “Using drones, combined with advanced imaging and analytical technology, will deliver significant benefits for us, for TFL, and for the travelling public in London.
“We have led the way in trialling the use of drones to survey structures for London Underground. Now we’re the first contractor to obtain formal long-term licence approval for their use from TfL, which opens up exciting opportunities.”
Lanes Rail is responsible for maintaining and repairing a wide range of assets across the London Underground network on behalf of TfL, including track drainage, station buildings, bridges, power sites, and engineering works.
For the technology to be formally approved by TfL, Lanes Rail had to show that it met all TfL’s stringent safety, security, and operational quality standards.
Todd added: “In essence, we had to go through a very detailed and structured process of answering every conceivable what if question. What if the drone malfunctioned, what if the drone was flown close to a power line or signalling equipment, what if a member of the public or TfL employee saw the drone flying.
“We had to demonstrate that our drones would be safe to fly within the defined operational envelope set for them, that we were competent to use them, and that we had procedures in place to manage any foreseeable circumstance involving TfL staff and customers.”