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Detection consequences of rail and flight operations

Unauthorised graffiti leads to millions in damages for European railways every year. Isolated sidings offer ‘graffiti artists’ undisturbed, prosecution-proof working conditions.

To minimise the damage, a railway company (which does not want to be named) decided to monitor sidings so that unauthorised persons are detected when they enter defined areas. Detecting individuals in track systems is extremely challenging because sidings are usually located directly next to tracks and the prescribed clearance profiles do not leave much room for technical installations. The technology which was used enabled the precise location of crossings into the detection area.

After the detection equipment had been installed, in the course of defining the alarm or intervention plan it became clear that individuals being detected on the tracks makes a complete suspension of transport operations necessary until the situation has been clarified at the site. As the costs and organisational issues involved in closing the tracks are considerable, the railway company decided to deactivate the detection area along the tracks so that it would not have to respond to individuals who are in this zone.

Airports could find themselves in a similar predicament if drones are detected when they breach the safety distance. In this case, it is mandatory to suspend flight operations. However, unlike railways, airports cannot ignore detection results because, instead of affecting the individuals who are responsible, they may affect passengers and crews. The dilemma for airports when it comes to balancing security and economic aspects is understandable. As a frequent flyer, however, the author is keen for airports to install powerful drone detection systems as quickly as possible.

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