FreeRail Project – Automated recording of vegetation near the tracks and of storm damage along the Deutsche Bahn network with autonomously operated drones (Trinity)

The “FreeRail” project, which has been running since September 2019, will be funded under the Modernitätsfond (“mFUND“) funding directive with a total of EUR 2.82 million from 1 September 2019, 67% of which will be funded by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure. A big step for the network coordinator Quantum-Systems GmbH and its project partners.

The project consortium consists of experts from DB Fahrwegdienste GmbH, geo-konzept GmbH, Technical University Ingolstadt and the city of Ingolstadt under the project management of the network coordinator Quantum-Systems GmbH. The starting point of the joint project “FreeRail” deals with a digital solution for a growing problem in the maintenance of the infrastructure of Deutsche Bahn (DB).

Fully automated railway inspection as one goal for the FreeRail project

Controlling and maintaining the constantly growing vegetation along DB’s 33,440 km long rail network is a time-consuming and challenging task for DB Fahrwegdienste GmbH. In order to comply with the prescribed traffic safety obligation, the vegetation along the entire route network must be inspected, documented and evaluated by qualified personnel at least once a year. At the same time, rail traffic should not be disrupted during this control work.

In the “FreeRail” project, the scientific and technical principles of a future, fully automated, drone-based system for digitized vegetation control and registration of damage following storms along Deutsche Bahn’s route network are to be developed by February 2022. On the one hand, the aim is to design and investigate the technologies and operating processes required for this. On the other hand, a functional demonstrator is to be developed and tested on a selected route section.

Trinity eVTOL UAV combined with self-contained drone hangar

With the help of a long-range drone from the Trinity UAV line from Quantum-Systems GmbH, which is capable of vertical launch, different sensor data will be collected along the test track. The drone will take off and land fully automatically from a self-sufficient drone hangar permanently stationed in the immediate vicinity of the test track. Using a special communication and data processing system, the collected data is automatically evaluated and transferred to the responsible employee of DB Fahrwegdienste GmbH.

Within the framework of traffic control and digital infrastructure management in Bavaria, the project will now receive financial support from the mFUND of the BMVI as of 01.09.2019.

With the mFUND research initiative, the BMVI has been supporting research and development projects on data-based digital applications for mobility 4.0 since 2016. In addition to financial support, the mFUND supports networking between actors from politics, business and research with various event formats, as well as access to the data portal mCLOUD. Further information can be found at www.mfund.de.

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