Maintenance specialist Lanes Rail, part of, has become the first contractor to win long-term Transport for London (TfL) approval to use drones to carry out of asset surveys.
Following an intensive 12 month testing and approval process, Lanes Rail can now use drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), during its extensive maintenance work for Transport for London.
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.”
Lanes Rail is responsible for maintaining and repairing a wide range of assets across the London Underground network on behalf of TfL. This includes track drainage, station buildings, bridges, power sites, and engineering depots.
Drones are increasingly used to carry out structural and topographical surveys across the UK. For the technology to be formally approved by TfL, Lanes Rail had to show that it met all TfL’s stringent safety, security, and operational quality standards.
Lanes Rail’s drone survey team, part of Lanes Professional Services, which already had a Civil Aviation Authority UAV licence in place, 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.
Andrew McQueen, Head of Lanes Professional Services, 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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