The FreeRail Project 

Autonomously operated drones collect data and accurate recordings to inspect vegetation and storm damage along the Deutsche Bahn railway network

Current challenge

  • Railway network with approx. 34,000 km nationwide
  • At least once a year inspection on foot, with documentation and evaluation of the vegetation condition
  • Increasingly severe weather events due to climate change

 Time-consuming and challenging tasks during ongoing rail operations

Project FreeRail - The problem we try to solve

The solution / FreeRail

  • Collecting various sensor data along the test route with the help of a vertical takeoff capable drone
  • The drone takes off and lands automatically from a self-sufficient drone hangar that is permanently stationed within the immediate vicinity of the test track
  • With a special communication and data processing system, the collected data is automatically evaluated and the results are sent to the dedicated DB employee

The challenges ahead

Automated target approach
The drone will be equipped with an infrared-based final approach navigation system to precisely approach the hangar-side gripper arm

Self adjusting gripper
A spring structure, which is still to be researched, will allow the latching elements of the gripper arm to approach the final latching point in a kind of funnel, where they will then latch with spring support

Safe design of autonomously operated drones
BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) flights require a high level of autonomy, safety and emergency procedures

Photogrammetric image analysis
Development of algorithms that can perform an analysis of vegetation or damage scenarios from aerial photographs in an automated manner

Our goals for FreeRail


The conceptual design and investigation of the required technologies and operating processes


To further develop the scientific and technical fundaments for the future of a fully automated drone base system which is able to digitalise the use of data for vegetation control and damages after severe weather events across Deutche Bahns rail network


Showcase a functional system for testing within specific zones on the route network

The FreeRail project partners

With the help of future autonomously operated long-range drones from Quantum-Systems, we would be able to inspect the tracks during flight operations out of sight (BVLOS) much faster and more efficiently than with conventional terrestrial recording. Already today, the high-quality and objective recording of vegetation and track infrastructure by means of a VTOL drone with all the analysis options in data evaluation is a real added value for internal tasks

Matthias Maier

Project manager for digital remote sensing, DB Fahrwegdienste GmbH

We are working on building the foundations of the FreeRail project with the combination of the high and fast degree of automation in connection with the legal and regulatory permits enabling us to fly over long distances (BVLOS).
This will provide key pre-requsites for future widespread use of this integral overall system.

Pierre Ulfig

Project manager FreeRail, Quantum-Systems GmbH

Presentation of the FreeRail project at the Federal Ministry of Economy

Our joint research work is focused on data-based digital applications to drive tomorrow’s mobility. The potential of drones is far from being exhausted in this context. Sustainable decisions are to be made based on data. And it is precisely this data that we provide with our drone technology. At any time, at any place, and at the highest quality.

Florian Seibel

CEO, Quantum-Systems GmbH

The great potential for transmitting payload data as well as the numerous 5G techniques such as edge computing and network slicing can be used advantageously for drone applications.

Prof. Andreas Festag

Technische Hochschule Ingolstadt

Drones with 5G technology – The “FreeRail” project consortium successfully completes first test series together with Ericsson.

Why does it make sense to implement 5G mobile communications in drones? Professional mapping drones are equipped with cameras that create high-resolution aerial images. The collected data is used to serve various industries and diverse use cases. The amount of data is...

Deutsche Bahn relies on Quantum-Systems drones to inspect its route network

DB Fahrwegdienste GmbH is once again purchasing Trinity F90+ drones for undisrupted detection of storm damage and vegetation near the track.Gilching, Germany, 3rd of August 2020 – DB Fahrwegdienste has again decided to implement Quantum-Systems Trinity F90+ drones to...

DRONES 02/2020 – Project FreeRail: Automated Control of the Deutsche Bahn rail network

When autumn storms rage or snow masses in winter weigh heavily on rotten trees then chaos in rail traffic was often pre-programmed in recent years.Tracks had to be closed and train connections interrupted or delayed. In order to be able to react to such incidents an...

Modernity Fund (mFUND) for project “FreeRail” approved

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...

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Thank you for your interest in our products & services. Given the number of inquiries, please note that the screening and evaluation of your inquiry will be conducted on the basis of the information provided. You are therefore kindly requested to provide complete and accurate information pertaining, but not limited to envisaged mission profile(s), geographical area of operation, end-user information, choice of sensor(s), and other relevant operational requirements in the respective field. Fields marked with an * are mandatory.


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