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Subway Tunnel Inspection drones

How Are Drones Being Used For Subway Tunnel Inspections?

Drone inspection is one of the advanced solutions in various industries. Common drone inspections can be used for power transmission lines, oil pipelines, roof inspections, construction site inspections, bridge inspections, and more. The use of drones in tunnel inspections is becoming more and more popular due to the advantages of close-range observation and the ability to penetrate into hard-to-reach hazardous areas.

Why do we need tunnel inspection drones?

Tunnel inspections are a dangerous operation traditionally performed manually by inspectors in dark, humid and dusty environments filled with gas and power lines, presenting obvious hazards for manual maintenance of subway tunnel line inspections.

Tunnel inspection drones are now changing the process, protecting inspectors and providing high-quality footage, reports and 3D reality capture to help officials assess and understand the condition of tunnels.

Drones with high-definition cameras capture high-resolution images for detailed analysis. Such drones can fully inspect complex structures, detect hidden defects or cracks, and collect data with high-performance sensors and other instruments to measure air quality and other environmental conditions inside the tunnel.

Drone for Subway Tunnel Inspections

Benefits of Autonomous Drones for Tunnel Inspections

The development of autonomous drone technology has revolutionized the way tunnel inspections are done. Autonomous drones can be programmed to ease the burden of human intervention and inspect tunnels with greater efficiency and accuracy while reducing the risk of injury to personnel.

The autonomous drones are equipped with artificial intelligence (AI) technology that enables them to detect anomalies in tunnel walls and ceilings. The technology enables tunnel inspectors to identify potential risks and take timely corrective action.

Autonomous drones are also a cost-effective solution for tunnel inspections. Drones are able to access hard-to-reach areas while minimizing the risk of personal injury, reducing the need for costly and time-consuming scaffolding or rope access systems.

How to choose the right drone for subway tunnel inspection?

Choosing the right drone for tunnel inspection must start with the drone’s performance, which requires consideration of the environment, operational feasibility, payload requirements, battery life, user interface, and drone budget. With the right drone, operators can ensure a successful tunnel inspection.

  1. The applicability of tunnel inspection drones is important. The size, shape, lighting, temperature and complexity of tunnels put drones to the test. Therefore, choosing a drone with advanced sensors and a robust frame is crucial for the successful inspection of subway tunnels.
  2. The payload capacity of tunnel inspection drones will also be a consideration. Drones with thermal imaging cameras or additional lighting systems will affect the flight duration and operational feasibility of drones.
  3. The battery life of a drone is very important. Tunnel inspection drones often require longer flight times for inspection operations, and it is necessary to purchase long-lasting drones or purchase additional batteries.
  4. Ease of operation of the tunnel inspection drone is also important. That means looking at the controller settings and user interface. A drone with a simple and intuitive controller setup would make it easier to operate in tunnel environments. Additionally, features such as automatic flight mode can improve safety and simplify tunnel inspection tasks.
  5. The anti-interference performance of the tunnel inspection drone is worth mentioning. Most of the subway tunnels are metal cement structures, which have a serious impact on the GPS signal of the drone. Therefore, the anti-jamming ability of drones must be emphasized.

Case Note: Successful Use of Drones in Tunnel Inspection Project

Countries have been using drones for security checks for years.

  • In 2020, the Tokyo Metro Corporation of Japan used drones to inspect Tokyo Metro tunnels, nearly 200 kilometers of tunnels at a time.
  • In 2022, MBTA drones explore the Orange and Green Line subway tunnels following the government center garage accident.
  • 2022 Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) officials used drones to conduct an initial inspection of two subway lines before dispatching a team of structural engineers.
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