How Drones Make Metro Tunnel Inspections Faster, Safer, and Cost-Effective

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How Drones Make Metro Tunnel Inspections Faster, Safer, and Cost-Effective

Tunnel inspections are dangerous operations, traditionally conducted manually by inspectors walking through dark, damp and dusty environments with apparent tripping hazards lined with gas and electricity lines. Drones are now transforming this process, safeguarding inspectors and delivering high-quality footage, reports and 3-D reality captures. The end result is a slow, dangerous and ineffective process made faster, safer and cost-effective by FEDS-Drone Powered Solutions.
To understand the importance of transit, simply imagine the region without transportation. Metro lines play a significant role in the city's social and economic functions. This study reported that in just the first nine years of the Dubai Metro, it has reportedly accumulated gains of 66 billion AED. Other than the economic impact, it also cuts down the number of vehicles on the road, reducing emissions of greenhouse gasses and providing a safe, reliable and affordable mode of transportation to all. Regular inspections are mandatory to keep the metro open, but it can be expensive, time-intensive, and hazardous; keeping this in mind, it's no real surprise that many countries are turning towards a drone-based solution to inspect metro tunnels.

Most passengers hardly spare an afterthought to the challenges of maintaining the metro as they zip through the city; these worries are left up to the tunnel inspectors and engineers to consider. The humid, dusty and load-bearing nature of tunnels makes them prone to deterioration. But, the infrastructure is kept safe through comprehensive maintenance drives that rely on highly accurate data. Procuring this data, on the other hand, is a challenge on its own.

Tunnel inspections are crucial to ensure the safety and reliability of the infrastructure. Currently, tunnel inspections are mainly carried out by visual walkthrough inspections. But this method is slow, expensive and hazardous. The inspectors walking through the dark and damp environment also expose themselves to several hazards. Additionally, to reach harder to reach areas, temporary scaffoldings would be used to conduct inspections. These scaffoldings further increased the cost and time spent on inspections.

While the conventional inspection methods were seen as a necessary liability, this is no longer the case with the introduction of drones. Many nations like Japan, Singapore and U.A.E., already have plans in place to inspect Metro tunnels using drones. Drones replace the manual inspection method to give rise to a safer, faster and more accurate system.

But, most pilots would feel reluctant to fly their drone in tight and confined spaces. The concrete enclosed tunnels can pose challenges to most drones; this is where Flyability's Elios 2 indoor inspection drone comes in; the Elios 2 was designed for this very environment in mind, allowing it to go where other drones cannot.

The Elios used for confined-space inpection achieves this with three main attributes; collision resilience, small size and robust transmission. The drone is encased in a spherical cage that protects the drone from impacts and is further supported by propellers that can make lighting-fast corrections. The diameter of the Elios 2 is just under 40 cm allowing it to fit through tight spaces and hug walls and ceilings. Finally, the Elios 2 comes with its own transmission system that secures connection to the drone through walls and obstacles.

Using a capable drone-like Elios 2 will improve inspections' accuracy while increasing efficiency and freeing up the inspector's time. The drone can access hard-to-reach areas nimbly and safely removing the need to erect temporary scaffoldings. Supported by Flyability's Inspector 2.0, the data becomes truly invaluable- giving you data in real time. Using drones, Metro tunnel inspections become faster, safer, cost-effective, and more accurate; they may be the only option in emergencies.

Inspecting Dubai's Metro Using the Elios 2

The Dubai Metro is one of the largest metro networks on the planet, spanning over 75 km. Since its start in 2009, it ferries approximately 354,244 people per day. Out of the 47 stations, 9 of them are situated underground and are connected through a series of tunnels that stretches over 14 km. In line with Smart Dubai Strategy 2021, the Roads & Transport Authority (RTA) decided to trial a new system where drones inspect these tunnels.

Previously the inspections were conducted manually by inspectors walking through the tunnels or by a moving platform. But if they needed to inspect anything situated higher up, temporary scaffoldings would have to be erected. This process was incredibly dangerous; other than the tripping hazards, gas and electricity lines are present through the tunnel.

FEDS was brought on to display the capabilities of drones and how they can improve this process. The Elios 2 was selected as the drone for the task. Given that the tunnels were underground and encased in concrete, there is no GPS signal- the Elios 2 is safe and reliable without GPS, while other drones are reliant to a degree on a stable GPS connection

The tunnels did pose challenges to the FEDS Team; the dark and dusty environment made it hard to navigate, and unexpected protruding objects are a threat to drone flight and the team. Keeping the challenges in mind, the team adjusted their operational procedures to address the challenges. The Team would conduct an initial reconnaissance flight to identify potential obstacles and hazards. They proceeded vigilantly with the inspection, moving segment by segment recording video and thermal data. After collecting the data, FEDS presented the client with footage, reports and 3-D reality captures were delivered.

Previously, the whole inspection process was slow, ineffective and dangerous. Using drones, entire stretches of tunnels can be inspected faster, yielding better data and, more importantly, minimising risks. If you'd like to inspect indoor and confined spaces safely, efficiently and cost-effectively, get in touch with FEDS.

About the author

Niiveth Mani


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