Spain’s Renfe rail company to use drones in security upgrade

Renfre drones rail

Spain’s national rail company, Renfe, is moving to counter intrusions along its lines, and theft and vandalism of its rolling and stationary assets, by deploying drones to monitor activity over several critical sections of its network.

Renfe has put out a $36.6 million tender to providers of drone services to reinforce existing closed circuit video surveillance and routine human patrols of rail lines. Plans call for the future partner to carry out an initial 76,720 hours of flights keeping watch of tracks, stations, and maintenance and production facilities. 

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The presence of drones – which may be deployed at any time during shifts – will serve to deter people entering banned areas along rails or Renfe work sites, and provide visual evidence against intruders, thieves, or vandals who do access them. The company decided to move ahead with the aerial tech addition to its previous security setup after trials proved promising.

Renfe says it will initially focus the new drone deployments in and around Seville and Malaga, with operators acting both as trained pilots and security guards once invaders have been identified around rail lines or in other areas prohibited to the public. The company says the UAVs selected will be designed to emit as little noise as possible in respect of homes located along track zones (though that effort will probably come as limited relief to residents used to the recurring rattle of passing trains).

The decision by Renfe comes just a couple months after the UK’s national operator Network Rail teamed up with British Transport Police to deploy drones in an effort to both spot intruders of banned areas along tracks faster, and pinpoint and remove them as quickly as possible to minimize resulting stoppages of service.

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Like those planned for use by Renfe, Network Rail has been flying drones with HD video cameras equipped with high-powered zoom lenses and thermal imaging sensors to detect and locate invaders more effectively. Losses to operators from security-imposed traffic delays until tracks are cleared are considerable.

Between April 2021 and the same month this year, Network Rail recorded 1,105 cases of trespassing, provoking 48,702 minutes of train delays at a cost of just over $4 million. Since April of this year, at least 572 intrusions have resulted in 21,021 delay minutes, worth about $1.5 million.

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