Viaduct Inspection for Network Rail using drones

Case Study

Viaduct Inspection for Network Rail using drones

Cyberhawk was approached by Network Rail to conduct an “inspection for assessment” on a number of brick viaducts in the UK.


Cyberhawk was asked to provide an inspection report confirming defects from the most recent detailed examination and identifying any new defects, along with an orthophoto and 3D point-cloud model of the viaducts. This information was then used to confirm the viaducts’ dimensional accurately and to complete a structural assessment.


As a Network Rail framework holder, Cyberhawk’s procedures have already been vetted and approved and teamed with our highly skilled pilots and experienced engineers, we emerged as the preferred provider for this difficult work scope.


UAVs were selected to avoid the risks of personnel working at height. However, because the viaducts are can interfere with GPS signal received by the drone, it meant experienced pilots who could fly fully manually were required. This new type of project, which had never before been attempted by Network Rail, required navigating the UAV around structure with limited flying positions and no GPS signal underneath the soffits.


Each inspection was carried out by a two-man team and Cyberhawk examined the condition of the entire viaduct in a few days.


UAV data collection reduces – and often removes – the need for track possessions, resulting in reduced track side work. Also, UAVs don’t require people working at height or during the night, contributing to the overall safety of staff.


Usually this type of inspection would involve traditional rope access methods, requiring a track possession at night and therefore taking significantly longer to complete. Following a UAV survey, it may still be necessary to undertake some targeted inspection work using traditional tactile methods, but only when really necessary in order to examine any severe defects identified. This dramatically improves the overall efficiency of the project.


Using Cyberhawk to complete the work scope, compared with traditional inspection and survey methods, saved the client a significant amount of time and money and produced much higher quality imagery and reporting in contrast with previous inspections. Furthermore, there was no disruption to schedules and importantly, safety risks were minimised due to removing the need to work at height.

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