Railways to use Drones for monitoring & rescue operations to enhance Safety

NEW DELHI: The Railways on Monday said it has decided to deploy drone cameras for monitoring projects and activities of relief and rescue operation.

“Indian Railways has decided to deploy drone cameras (UAV/NETRA) for various railway activities, especially monitoring and maintenance of tracks and other rail infrastructure,” the Railways Ministry said in a statement. It said that directions had been given to Zonal Railways to procure such cameras. “This is in line with the Railways’ desire to use technology to enhance safety and efficiency in train operations.”

Beside monitoring of the project and maintenance of tracks, the drone cameras will also be deployed to undertake monitoring activities of relief and rescue operation and inspection-related activities. “It shall also be used to assess preparedness of Non-Interlocking (NI) works, crowd management during fairs and melas, to identify scrap and also for aerial survey of station yards,” it said.

According to Railways, these drones would be instrumental in providing real-time inputs related to safety and maintenance of tracks and other railway infrastructure. The Railways said Western Railway had become the first Zonal Railway to procure drone cameras.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) also held a day-long national brain storming session in New Delhi in November 2017, on application of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) in disaster management, including using it for identifying disaster-affected areas. It was observed that UAVs can be effectively used in different phases of disaster management and help NDMA identify areas affected by disasters and aid disaster response. The session called for all stakeholders to strive to leverage existing technologies for quick and efficient disaster response. Interestingly, Tamil Nadu municipal administration also inaugurated a project for drone mapping of properties, which would be executed by Hyderabad-based RSI Softech India, making Chennai Corporation the first municipal body in the country to start such a project.

Under this initiative, West Central Railways with headquarters at Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh has become the first Zonal Railway to procure “drone” cameras in Indian Railways. West Central Railways has already done a trial-run of those cameras last week on its all the three divisions Jabalpur Division, Bhopal Division and Kota Division. Earlier, the demonstration of “drone” cameras was done for project monitoring of railway electrification work of the Jabalpur Yard.

East Coast Railway (ECoR) is preparing an action plan for use of such unmanned devices in its jurisdiction. Sources in ECoR said, the action plan is expected to be ready in a week. The guidelines of the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and local authorities are also being analysed regarding deployment of the drones. “We have received the instruction from Railway Board in this regard.

We are planning to use drone for survey at critical locations including construction sites of major projects,” a senior official said. Apart from monitoring progress of projects, the ECoR will also employ drones to get a clear view of obstructions and hindrances at the sites. Illegal encroachments of railway land would also be monitored through the UAVs or NETRA. A major advantage of deploying drones would be to use them at highly congested locations for crowd management, especially during festivals such as Puri Rath Yatra and Godavari Pushkar mela in Visakhapatnam.

This would be important for security point of view, the sources added. The Indian Railways has planned to use the drone cameras in sync with its decision to use technology for enhancement of safety and efficiency in train operations. The ECoR also plans to use the eyes in the sky for land mapping and survey work. “In the past, we have had to change the plans due to existence of forest land and sanctuary areas after land acquisition and diversions caused wasteful expenditure. This can help us,” said the sources.

Besides, the drone cameras would also be used during disaster management, to identify scrap and aerial survey of station yards. The Indian Railways said it is going to be instrumental in providing real time inputs related to safety and maintenance of tracks and other railway infrastructure. Already, West Central Railways has become the first zone to procure drone cameras while West Central Railways did a trial- run last week.