Lanes Group in the UK has completed its first aerial drone survey at a London Tube station.
The company’s rail division carried out the roof survey using the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) at Amersham Station on the Metropolitan Line.
Lanes Group had previously successfully carried out a drone roof survey on a large maintenance depot, and wanted to show the technology could be used on more complicated angular station roofs as well.
Rail Division Planned Maintenance Manager Mark O’Leary said: “The station drone survey, the first of its kind on the Tube network, went very well.
“It was carried out in the daytime when the station was open to passengers, without causing any disruption to service.
“We believe we have shown that drone roof surveys represent a viable and cost-effective alternative to conventional roof survey methods.”
Lanes Rail Division is working with UAV firm Unmanned Aerial Technology to develop the drone roof survey service, which delivers enhanced digital data to support maintenance and development programmes.
At Amersham Station, in Buckinghamshire, the survey was completed by two operatives, the drone pilot and a works supervisor, in the equivalent of one working day.
Surveying the 4,500 sq ft roof conventionally would have taken a team of four operatives up to five nights, using a range of access and safety equipment, including scaffolding towers.
Lanes Group, one of the UK’s leading drainage and maintenance specialists, worked closely with London Underground counterparts to organise the drone survey – and also liaised with the police and Network Rail.
Mark O’Leary said: “Using drones in public areas always sparks public interest, which is why the police needed to be aware.
“Station staff and train drivers were also advised, so they had no concerns and could advise the public that the activity was planned and approved.”
The aerial drone is fitted with a sophisticated camera that takes scores of ultra-high definition images which can be manipulated to analyse the roof’s structure and condition.
This includes creating a 3-dimensional point cloud image so the roof can be viewed and measured from any angle by civil engineers and architects.
“Many London Underground station roof structures are relatively fragile and a lot of them are listed buildings,” said Mark O’Leary. “Therefore, in terms of the safety of maintenance operatives, which is paramount, and the preservation of the roof, aerial drone surveys are a very attractive option.
“They will not be appropriate in all circumstances, but we can see this technology and approach being ideal for a significant proportion of station roof surveys.”
Drone surveys would allow more intensive monitoring of buildings. By digitally comparing data gathered over time, changes could be detected and the most effective interventions planned to repair and protect assets.