Satellites and drones to support railway infrastructure maintenance
The MOMIT project aims at developing and demonstrating a new use of remote sensing technologies for railway infrastructure monitoring. Here, Valeria Donzelli, Project Coordinator, explains how the solutions to come from the project will support the maintenance and prevention processes within the infrastructure management lifecycle.
Infrastructure accounts for approximately one-third of a railway’s operating costs. A significant part of these costs is related to labour-intensive maintenance, most of which is preventive, although ad hoc interventions are also needed when faults occur, and these can be particularly costly and disruptive.
The reduction of the system costs relies heavily on the reduction of the operating costs, not only directly through better maintenance strategies and procedures which allow for cost efficient predictive maintenance, but also indirectly through the reduction of the life-time cost of infrastructure assets and hence relevant maintenance.
Innovative technologies could support infrastructure maintenance: Improved asset information based on remote infrastructure condition monitoring, with a high degree of automation, could lead to wider asset control and, at same time, to sensible reduction of infrastructures maintenance costs.
The Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking is the first European rail joint technology initiative to seek focused research and innovation and market-driven solutions by accelerating the integration of new and advanced technologies into innovative rail product solutions: The Shift2Rail programme offers the opportunity to find and test innovative technologies and procedures which are able to support the asset management.
In the framework of the Shift2Rail programme, the MOMIT project ‘Multi-scale Observation and Monitoring of railway Infrastructure Threats’ has been presented: Aimed to develop innovative products and solutions supporting the maintenance process of railway infrastructure. The MOMIT concept is based on the exploitation of unmanned technologies as Earth Observation satellites and drone-borne sensors for railway management support: It impacts on the railway infrastructure maintenance process by boosting the use of remote sensing data and unmanned technologies to generate new effective solutions in terms of products (value added information) and processes (operational workflows). MOMIT also analyses the main technological and regulation barriers that separates the remote sensing community from the operational use of Earth Observation data in the domain of infrastructure management. This develops new easy-to-adopt solutions (for example the use of standard parameters to identify potential findings), supporting the decision-making and maintenance process of the infrastructure management.