PKP CARGO, the largest freight rail operator in Poland and the second one in Europe, uses drones to secure transports and patrol railway areas as one of the first operators in the world.
After several months of testing, drones will be used on a permanent basis by the Operating Team, which is responsible for the security of the goods carried by PKP CARGO throughout the country.
PKP CARGO unmanned aircrafts can be programmed for autonomous take-offs and landings, and therefore can carry out pre-scheduled flights over freight trains. They are equipped with daylight cameras and a high-quality optical zoom, which allows to recognize and record a person from the distance of one kilometre. The FULL HD resolution of the recorded video allows to identify the recorded persons, therefore providing the Police with evidence necessary to prosecute the perpetrators of the theft. Thanks to thermal cameras, drones are also fully functional at night and in difficult weather conditions, such as rain, snowstorm or heavy cloudiness.
PKP CARGO uses two types of drones: larger ones, with a wingspan of one metre, and smaller ones – half this size. The maximum speed at which they move in the air reaches up to 60 km/h. Due to small size and colours, as well as low level of generated noise, the machines are virtually invisible and inaudible in the air, which significantly impedes the activities of criminals. Drones transmit the recorded video signal in real time to the headquarters of the Operating Team.
PKP CARGO drone operators have undergone thorough training covering aviation law, operational procedures, principles of flight, as well as practical classes in piloting unmanned aircrafts. They have also passed State exams, received diplomas and certificates of professional competence issued by the Civil Aviation Office, which are necessary to perform drone flights in Poland.
– We are the first rail transport carrier in Poland, and still one of the few in the world, which uses drones to prevent theft and protect transported goods. We are also going to use these machines for other activities, such as checking whether wagons returned by clients have been properly emptied. This will greatly reduce the time needed for such inspections, which are necessary for smooth operation. Drones will be an efficient cost-effective and multifunction tool for PKP CARGO – says Maciej Borecki, Director of the Safety and Audit Office in PKP CARGO.
In the world, drones are used in the military, in photography or to deliver shipments. The railway sector begins to embrace them. In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration has granted the first licence to a rail carrier to use drones for inspecting railway tracks only this spring.
While securing its trains, PKP CARGO places the emphasis foremost on prevention. The carrier is working with the Rail Protection Guard (SOK) and the Police, with prosecuting the perpetrators of crimes at their discretion. PKP CARGO’s data show, that in the first half of 2015 the value of stolen goods and consignments in railway areas has decreased by 59%, in annual terms. The number of incidents in that time decreased by 44 percent. Reported losses decreased by 1.8 million PLN. – The use of drones certainly had an influence on such a good result, and it should be noted that this was only the test period for these devices. At the moment we are starting to use these machines regularly to protect our shipments – notes Maciej Borecki.