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Innovative system to detect railway malfunctions and threats

 In the photo, a drone is flying

Some research will be done using the WUT Aviation and Space Research Centre (OBLot)

Learn more about the project

Who has not experienced railway problems? Malfunctions, accidents, bad weather conditions and resulting delays may clearly be a nuisance – to everyone, not just passengers. Help is offered by scientists from the Warsaw University of Technology.

A team from the Faculty of Power and Aeronautical Engineering is planning to develop a solution which will automatically identify malfunctions and potential threats on railways.

Prevention is better

To do this, an adequate monitoring system is needed – of traction and its surrounding. Scientists want to use for this unmanned platforms integrated with measuring devices. A system of automatic detection of malfunctions using AI will analyse the collected data. Employing this approach, the system will report not only visible damage of the traction and its surrounding but first of all, potential damage. Preventative measures will significantly impact the quality of traction maintenance.

– An innovative solution implemented in the project will be the development of a docking station for the drone – stresses Antoni Kopyt, PhD, from the Faculty of Power and Aeronautical Engineering, team leader. – This solution should increase the autonomy of operation of the whole system. Thanks to the station, the system needs hardly any maintenance, just some supervision of railway staff.

Thereby, the effectiveness and simplicity of the system become a significant advantage in the context of maintenance of railway traction.

– An important element of the project will be conducting optimal surveillance flights of the railway infrastructure, detecting malfunctions and their location on the basis of collected data which will be generated automatically after each flight – explains Antoni Kopyt, PhD. – Data reports determining locations of malfunctions or places where a malfunction may occur will be made available to railway staff responsible for infrastructure maintenance.

What connects railway with an airport?

The consortium members will support the Warsaw University of Technology in implementation of the project – companies Sky Snap (responsible for image analysis) and Enprom (dealing with operation of flights). 

Some studies within the project will be conducted at an airport using the WUT Aviation and Space Research Centre (OBLot) in Sieraków near Przasnysz. This is new and unique on the European scale research infrastructure, equipped with a modern machine park on the airport premises. Some test flights and the operation of the docking station cooperating with the drone will be conducted at this airport, where field tests can be done in safe conditions.

The project "Innovative Automatic System of Monitoring the Condition of Railway Infrastructure using AI and unmanned aerial vehicles – UAVforRail" is funded from the railway programme "Research and Development in Railway Infrastructure – BRIK II" – a joint project of the National Centre for Research and Development and PLK PKP S.A., which supports research and development in the area of railway infrastructure.

– The end of the project is planned in mid-2026, but we will see the first results earlier – says Antoni Kopyt, PhD.