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Drones on track to boost safety

Escalators at stations, and boundary walls along tracks have cut the death rate on Mumbai’s railways, and it will now be the turn of drones. The Western Railway is close to finalising a plan to deploy small unmanned aerial vehicles to monitor its tracks, and cut the number of train-hit deaths due to trespassing.

The death toll along Mumbai rail tracks was 3,304 in 2015, and 3,349 persons were injured, according to official data.

A senior Western Railway officer said the plan is unique and the firm Indian Eye Security will provide the drone. It can cover nearly 30 km at a stretch. Thus, the pilot project, which will be demonstrated on January 25, will be on the Churchgate to Borivali route, with a charging point at Dadar railway station. The live view from the UAV will be monitored at the control room of Railway Protection Force, where CCTV cameras are also watched. “The drone will keep an eye on trespassing, which we cannot easily detect, as we don’t have CCTV cameras at all places. The new system will map real locations and vulnerable places,” a railway official pointed out.

Fly at 50 metres

The drone is likely to cost the railways ₹10,000 to ₹15,000 per day to run. The images generated will enable security staff to reach an accident spot within minutes. Discussions are on between security and railway officials, and multiple clearances are required. “We have to get an okay from the electrical department for feasibility. They may suggest ways to run the system without affecting operation of trains,” the official added. Overhead traction wires are located about 15-20 metres above the tracks and drones will fly at 50 metres, during peak hours.

Also, drone cameras can produce superior recordings. “Sometimes, there are suicides and we can save people through live feed. After getting a location, we can immediately send security staff,” said an RPF official.

Mukul Jain, Divisional Railway Manager, WR, said the issue was being examined in-depth.

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