TfL awards first long-term drone licence for asset surveys

Transport for London has announced the first contractor to win long-term approval to use drones to carry out asset surveys.

Following an intensive 12-month testing and approval process, maintenance specialist Lanes Rail, part of Lanes Group plc, can now use drones during maintenance work for TfL. By using drones, Lanes Rail expects to improve data gathering, speed up the surveying process, enhance safety, reduce the risk of operational disruption, and cut surveying costs.

Lanes Rail director Matthew Todd said: “Using drones, combined with advanced imaging and analytical technology, will deliver significant service and sustainability benefits for us, for TfL, and for the travelling public in London. We have led the way in trialling the use of drones to survey structures for London Underground. Now we’re the first contractor to obtain formal long-term licence approval for their use from TfL, which opens up exciting opportunities.”

The east London company is responsible for maintaining and repairing a wide range of assets across the London Underground network on behalf of TfL. The drones will help provide more in-depth analysis for work on track drainage, station buildings, bridges, power sites, and engineering depots.

Lanes Rail’s drone survey team, part of Lanes Professional Services, had to demonstrate the equipment had electromagnetic compatibility (EMC), with live rail and signalling systems, and that a procedure was in place to alert transport staff and the public that a drone was being flown by a TfL contractor.

Head of Lanes Professional Services Andrew McQueen said: “Being able to carry out UAV surveys is a major step forward, especially for working on public transport assets that need to be in continuous operation. As data gathering becomes integrated into ever more sophisticated real-time asset control systems, supported by technologies such as big data analysis and artificial intelligence, drones will really come into their own to improve the quality, safety, and cost-effectiveness of our built environments.”

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