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    RMR Newsletter February 2024
    Get the latest RMR updates – February's insights inside! ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏  ͏ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­  

    February 2024

    Dear Reader,

    Smooth railway operations are essential for the safety of train drivers and passengers. To ensure this, track systems and rail infrastructure as well as their immediate surroundings must be free of obstacles. 

    In recent decades, this has been achieved primarily through the use of glyphosate in and around the track bed and manual visual inspections of vegetation such as trees along the railway line. These measures were harmful to the environment and time-consuming and therefore costly. In recent years, research into alternative methods of vegetation control and monitoring has intensified. 

    With increasing technologisation and digitalisation as well as developments in cameras and sensor technology, satellites and drones could now be used in vegetation monitoring. 

    In our newsletter, we present RADIUS and DRONE4RAIL, two projects that have looked into the use of drones in the railway sector. 

    You can read more about the use of drones and satellites in our article "Flying high for safety: drones and satellites in vegetation monitoring" in the current issue of Bahn Manager. An English version of the article can be downloaded here from RMR.

    Enjoy reading and see you next month!

    Research Projects


    "The objective of the RADIUS proposal is to develop a drone-based technology (a) to monitor the physical status and electronic functionality of both non-safety-critical and safety-critical railway signalling assets and (b) to execute specific maintenance activities. RADIUS will focus on: (1) The identification of the best drone technologies to be used in the railway sector, considering mainly the signalling assets to be monitored, the characteristics of the lines, the maintenance actions to be implemented and the distances to be covered; (2) The design of the drone solution capabilities and related payloads to integrate: sensors and the data collection and processing capabilities to allow the monitoring of the signalling assets, wireless technology to be used for establishing secure communication channels between the drone and the peripheral post and to allow contact-less diagnostic and SW maintenance; EGNSS solutions for navigation and positioning such as EGNOS (SBAS) and GALILEO enabling improved drones' flight control and safe movements in complex railways operational scenario, the most secure data transmission solution to guarantee reliable and secure data exchanges, and embedded data analytics to perform assets monitoring, maintenance prediction analysis, and repairing actions avoiding railway track possession; (3) The adaptation/redesign of the railway signalling assets to become drone-friendly for the maintenance activities include the design of a docking station; (4) The interaction with existing Intelligent Asset Management Systems; (5) The interaction with current Traffic Management Systems to improve the safe movements of drones within the railway; (6) The planning of drone mission strategies compliant with regulations and with the complexity of the railway environment to fly Beyond Visual Line of Sight; (7) The practical demonstration of a proof-of-concept (TRL 6) in a railway relevant environment."


    "The use of drones worldwide has increased rapidly over the last few years due to progress in the miniaturisation of the components. Current models have a higher range of autonomy and are therefore more powerful. Some years ago, simple cameras comprised a drone’s main equipment, but they can now not only carry high-end camera equipment or thermographic cameras, but also sensors and measurement equipment. For general purposes, they can withstand a range of weather conditions, including wind, low temperatures and moderate rain or snow.

    Currently, rail inspection tasks often involve the use of dedicated vehicles or converted road vehicles that require a railway track to operate, sometimes diminishing the capacity of the line. In other cases, it is necessary for personnel to be inside the rail corridor to perform visual inspections, increasing the risk of accidents, or to perform inspections in hard-to-reach areas (bridges or catenaries), where there is a high risk of falling.

    For these purposes, drones are a tool that show great promise. The use of drones for railway inspections can greatly enhance safety in several ways, allowing infrastructure managers (IMs) to reduce the previously mentioned risks to almost zero and to maximize line capacity. The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) has the advantage of being air-borne, and by utilising Global Navigation Satellite Systems, the UAV can fly above the railway track to capture observational data.

    The use of drones or UAV also shows great potential for railways in terms of security (preventing vandalism and theft, and for initial support after derailments or chemical spills), as well as for optimising maintenance, vegetation control and the efficiency of inspections.

    The data captured can be compared to previous inspections of the track infrastructure and surroundings. This enables automated monitoring of the changes occurring over time using smart analytics without significant investment in resources and inspections being required. This software technology will make it possible for defects to be automatically recognised thanks to the precision of defect dimension measurements increasing. Proper criteria are needed for the definition of field activities with the aim of optimising the amount of data recorded during the inspection. Methods for storing, managing and analysing this data also needs to be addressed.

    Thus, in the domain of periodic plain track inspections, the use of UAV seems a promising system. UAV will help in assisting the transition to autonomous railway inspections, especially where these are conducted in remote areas. The deployment of UAV will create an alternative remote railway track inspection tool and removes the necessity for additional safety training and human resources.

    For a legal framework, the group takes the European [EASA- European Aviation Safety Agency] and national regulations that are relevant for the use of drones in the railway environment into account.

    The experiences will be used to define the current potential and limits of this method, which will lead to the creation of a technical report and a new IRS."


    DZSF-Workshop "Safety verification for ATO GoA3 functions"

    DE: The topic from our last newsletter is also a long-standing concern for the German Centre for Rail Research (DZSF): after holding a specialist event on the topic of ATO in 2019, 2021 and 2022, the DZSF is following suit again this year. The workshop "Proof of safety for ATO GoA3 functions" aims to improve understanding of the systems, their environment and the requirements placed on them within the German railway sector. 

    Contributions can still be submitted and registrations/expressions of interest for the workshop can be made until 15 March:

    The results of the workshop will be incorporated into a joint publication.

    The workshop will be held in German. 

    DZSF symposium "Capacity in rail transport"

    DE: Germany has set itself the goal of doubling the share of rail-based transport in the modal split by 2030 and increasing the share of rail freight transport to 25 per cent. In order to achieve this, the capacity of the rail network must be drastically expanded. There are already regular capacity bottlenecks at junctions. 

    On 6 June, the DZSF is organising the 2nd symposium on the topic of "Capacity in rail transport".

    In order to develop measures to improve the utilisation of the rail network and increase capacity, the topic will be examined from various angles:

    • What contribution do service facilities make to rail transport in terms of capacity? What impact does this have on railway operations?

    • What can strategies for digitalisation in rail transport look like in order to make capacity management as well as construction and maintenance measures more efficient?

    • What strategies are conceivable with regard to future capacity development, distribution and utilisation with a view to the Deutschlandtakt?

    The symposium will be held in German. 

    Events in March

    Congress BIM in Infrastructure Transport & Energy 2024
    Dresden, Germany

    Transport Ticketing Global

    London, UK

    RailTech Europe

    Utrecht, Netherlands


    Coventry, UK

    Rail Infrastructure Networking
    London, UK

    Fire Protection of Rolling Stock
    Milan, Italy

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