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Drones, the railway and Altametris

Altametris: demanding industrial standards

Altametris prides itself on supplying secure, high-quality, reliable tools for excellent results. Its surveyor-topographers, former army officers, analysts, engineers and highly qualified researchers combine the precision, pragmatism, intuition and curiosity needed to produce innovative railway solutions. Its versatile industrial solutions are aimed at pushing back the boundaries to take performance to even greater heights. For Altametris, drones are not just a means of collecting data but also a high-flying way of getting ahead.

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Innovative technology

Ricopter is a rotary-wing unmanned aerial vehicle equipped with an airborne laser scanner for producing high-density 3D point clouds (LIDAR). Reliable and easy to use, its critical components all have built-in system redundancy for extra robustness and maximum range. Ricopter is an octocopter drone, which is ideal for topographical applications, particularly in areas with dense undergrowth.

Using drones to improve network performance and operations

Drones are used for:

  • Topographical surveys

Drones can be used for producing topographical surveys without venturing into the sites concerned, as a preliminary to studies or maintenance operations. They are capable of recording data over a linear distance of 1 km in the space of a single day. They are accurate to the nearest centimetre and with a degree of detail of approx.1/200.

With drones it is also possible to scan particular locations for BIM-type applications (Building Information Modelling) or for use in project studies.

  • Network mapping

Drones make highly accurate 2D and 3D mapping easy and produce ultra-precise, detailed results that can be fed into the Information Systems of the different departments. Their degree of detail is approx.1/1,000 over lengths of 20 to 50 km per day with an accuracy to the nearest centimetre. Drones are therefore ideal for scanning the railway system to update the GIS (Geographical Information System) used by technicians and engineers.

  • Rolling stock inspections

Drones can be used on the open track or in the Technicentres (Hellemmes or Nevers, for example) to record vehicle condition and detect even the most minor defects in real time. All the vehicles at the depot can be inspected and their data recorded in just a morning or afternoon, to the greater benefit of the network’s clients. Defects greater or equal to 1mm in size can be picked up in this way.

  • Inspection of industrial sites

With drones, it is possible to inspect the interior of buildings, even where space is at a premium, to pick up defects of less than a millimetre, spot damage or perform thermal audits. Half a day is all it takes to inspect an entire station roof.

  • Inspection of earthworks

For more inaccessible areas of the track, drones are a godsend: rockfaces, tunnel portals, major cuttings, etc. These can be scanned and their defects or damage picked up in real time. Earthworks structures can be inspected in just a matter of hours.

  • Inspection of bridges and tunnels

In other, hard-to-access areas such as viaducts, drones are yet again a game-changer. They can detect any damage and display defects in real time as they scan the structure. A 90 m tall masonry-surfaced bridge pier can be surveyed in 30 minutes, picking up even the smallest defect a few millimetres in size in the concrete or the masonry. 3D models can also be produced showing the georeferenced coordinates of these imperfections.

  • Inspection of electrical equipment

Drones are a boon for overhead line maintenance. Overhead lines can be inspected, their defects detected and displayed in real time and their heat profiles monitored. 500 metre lengths can be surveyed in 30 minutes. It takes just 10 days to survey 530 catenary masts and record their coordinates and defects for predictive maintenance purposes. By conducting regular drone surveys, any changes in overhead line equipment condition can be spotted by studying the time-series data.

  • Safety and security functions

Drones can provide back-up for the teams in charge of surveillance operations on particular parts of the line. They can detect the presence of individuals in the area, both by day and at night, using photo and/or video reconnaissance techniques. Drone surveillance operations are permanently scheduled over periods of six hours per night and a radius of 15 km. Altametris is the only company in France authorised by the French Civil Aviation Authority to undertake BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) operations at night. Wired drones with even greater flight endurance are also used to assist operatives in the field. Their flights are timed at 15-minute intervals.

  • Supporting and advising project owners

Altametris is happy to assist its clients and users in the operation of their drones and robots, to meet their particular engineering department needs.*

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Points to remember:

  • Altametris offers infrastructure operators (SNCF or other major private sector players) a completely safe, non-intrusive, performance-neutral solution.
  • Drones are ideal for collecting data that can then be analysed and recorded using a combination of human and artificial intelligence.
  • Altametris is a 100%-owned SNCF Réseau subsidiary, which also works with other major French network operators such as RTE, ENEDIS, EDF, and with foreign operators such as Swiss Railways (CFF/SBB).
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