Latvia’s mobile operator LMT has illustrated the role of cellular networks in the future of railways at a COMP4DRONES-supported UAV demonstration. During the demonstration, a section of the RailBaltica railway was inspected with autonomous drones commanded over the LMT cellular network.
The demonstration confirmed the possibility of controlling autonomous drones via the mobile network at altitudes of up to 120m, remotely, and changing operators with very low latency in the 4G network. This showcased the potential future use of drone technologies for monitoring railway infrastructure.
There are countless future applications of autonomous UAVs in the railway industry, from aerial surveillance to remote detection of security threats. By enabling efficient UAV-to-UAV and UAV-to-ground communication during this demonstration, LMT has emphasized the integral part cellular networks will have in enabling these applications,says Evija Plone, Innovation Project Manager at LMT
For example, using autonomous drones commanded over the cellular network will be a method to improve the efficiency of railway maintenance. To retain the highest capacity for travel frequency, predictive maintenance of railways is necessary. However, limited resources don’t allow for regularly sending out maintenance teams unless it’s clear that maintenance is needed.
Cellular network-connected drones, in combination with other technologies – AI, big data, and IoT – will create a combination for reliable and efficient maintenance of railway networks.
The demonstration carried out in Latvia by LMT in COMP4DRONES project showcases the potential that UAVs-based solutions have when making use of the capabilities of the current cellular network. It has shown that UAVs can be a powerful solution to support the monitoring and operation of various infrastructures, in the railway sector and beyond, at different stages of development,says Mauro Gil Cabeza, Mobilty Innovation Manager at INDRA and COMP4DRONES Project coordinator.
The potential benefits of the use of autonomous drones in the railway industry reinforce the importance of developing future railway networks as multimodal projects, where digital connectivity, including 5G, is integrated along the tracks.
Today, railway connectivity is supported by 2G – an outdated technology rarely used in other industries. RailBaltica will be one of the first projects in Europe to develop a railway infrastructure with 5G connectivity.
This project has received funding from the ECSEL Joint Undertaking (JU) under grant agreement No 826610. The JU receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program and Spain, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Italy, Latvia, Netherlands.