Network Rail chooses Dronecloud flight management system to help manage their entire drone operation
When an organisation responsible for the rail infrastructure across an entire country put drones to work at scale, we see the true value of a flight management system that enables it.
Network Rail have spent several years developing one of the largest drone teams in Europe. During this process they have had a great deal of experience of both the benefits the technology brings and the challenges their operations team face on a daily basis. This experience informed the tender they put out in mid 2020 with the aim of finding the best flight management system on which to build their requirements.
No software currently existed to meet the exact requirements of Network rail but through a rigorous tender process, Dronecloud was chosen as the best FMS on which to develop these requirements. Thankfully, the knowledge and vision of the team at Network rail means that most, if not all of the development required will be beneficial to the rest of the platform, its users and to the rest of the industry.
One of the major benefits of using drones to carry out a multitude of tasks is the removal of humans from near the line network. Dronecloud is facilitating the growth of safer operations.
Rikke Carmichael, head of Air Operations, said: “With the number of drone flights at the level it is and only going to climb higher in the future, we need a system like this to manage the load to ensure we are as efficient and safe as possible. Dronecloud shows our pilots if another drone is operating nearby, as well as alerting the pilot to other potential ground or air hazards in the area of the flight.
As Enterprise deployments of drones are now being rolled out across industries to survey and monitor sites at previously unknown levels we need new tools to manage them. The use of drones, however, comes with its own complexities, amplified when scaled. The partnership between Dronecloud and Network Rail is set to open up new workflows to achieve safe and regulated operations in complex environments.
Dronecloud is helping Network Rail to rapidly scale is drone operation with their pilots safely increasing the number of drone flights by over 300% in less than a year. The trend is set to continue over the next few years.
Whilst Dronecloud is helping increase drone activity for Network Rail today, the partnership is working hard to develop the system of the future. By bringing technologies and UTM services together, we’re helping to create a “local” UTM ecosystem around the rail network and helping Network Rail achieve greater capabilities, such as Beyond Visual Line of Site (BVLOS) track inspections – a game changer for the productivity of drone operations.
External Flight Approvals
Since coming online in January 2021, the service has seen an increase of 500% in the number of flight plans to Network Rail for approval.
The UK has a busy and dense rail network, where many drone companies operate drones near the track. The combination of Network Rail’s growing drone fleet plus external drone operators needing to fly near rail infrastructure means the requirement for visibility of who is flying what and where becomes paramount.
Historically, the Air Operations team at Network Rail received flight plans by email and the labour intensive process for approval took 10 days. As a result, Network Rail and Dronecloud worked together to implement a ‘first of its kind’ approval service for all drone users in the UK.
Since adopting Dronecloud Network Rail has seen the number of external flight approvals increase by 500%.
All drone operators seeking to fly drones over or near Network rail infrastructure are advised to submit their flights plan via the digital flight approval process powered by Dronecloud.
It’s a quick and easy process requiring basic flight details and a risk assessment. The tools and templates to do this are built into Dronecloud with an intuitive step-by-step workflow guiding you along. Approvals are typically given with 24 hours, often within hours.
The solution to deconfliction has been in part to connect the flight approval and flight planning processes in Dronecloud to Altitude Angels Guardian UTM, already widely used by UK drone users via the NATS Drone Assist safety app and long term partners of Dronecloud.
For a first hand insight to Network Rail Operations and partnership with Dronecloud, please spend a few minutes to watch the video below as Air Operations mangers discuss operations in a public forum.
“With the number of drone flights at the level it is and only going to climb higher in the future, we needed a flight management system to manage the load to ensure we are as efficient and safe as possible. It will show drone pilots if another drone is operating nearby, as well as alert the pilot to other potential ground or air hazards in the area of the flight.”Rikke Carmichael, Head of Air Operations Network Rail
We’ve been waiting a while for something like this. Finally, a business focussed software solution for drone operations. We now run all our work through Dronecloud, it has given our team complete oversight of all our jobs and we have made great gains since moving on to the platform.Seth Zora, President Aerdia LLC
“Dronecloud has allowed EM3 to reduce the amount of time taken in mission planning, speeding up our whole pre-flight workflow. It gives us the confidence to know that all the relevant/correct checks are being carried out and allows us to easily hand over a detailed RAMS document to the client without duplicating processes”Ross Smith, EM3 Solutions