June 3, 2023

Deutsche Bahn: German train system to add drones

deutsche bahn german train system to add drones

The Deutsche Bahn, which is the national railway company of Germany (and the second-largest transport company in the world after the German postal and logistics company Deutsche Post / DHL), is adding drones to its toolkit.

The train system is seeking to add drones as a means of monitoring railway infrastructure and maintenance. And in March, it awarded a competitive tender to Pix4D Germany to make it happen.

Over the coming years, Pix4D will use its products including PIX4Dcloud, PIX4Dmapper, and PIX4Dmatic for processing and analyzing drone imagery, primarily of any Deutsche Bahn construction projects, as well as for general monitoring and quality assurance of existing infrastructure. DB Netz AG, which is the infrastructure operator of Deutsche Bahn, will manage the contract with Pix4D.

The news is especially significant given the Deutsche Bahn’s prominence in the transportation world. Deutsche Bahn is the largest railway operator in Europe with about 34,000 kilometers (over 21,000 miles) of track. Thast’s about two-and-a-half times the diameter of the Earth, and about four times as long as The Great Wall of China. Deutsche Bahn is also the largest railway company in the world by revenue.

Travelers pulling suitcases prepare to board an arriving ICE high-speed train of German state rail carrier Deutsche Bahn at Hauptbahnhof main railway station in Berlin, Germany. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

The contract signals an ongoing emphasis on the digitalization of Deutsche Bahn’s infrastructure management. Pix4D is a software company that converts images taken by hand, drone, or plane into geo-referenced, survey-grade 2D mosaics, 3D models, and point clouds. That data can then be easily shared and is particularly relevant for photogrammetry projects.

The news also promises a potential positive environmental impact. Prior to the Pix4D news, Deutsche Bahn had set a climate protection goal is to be what’s called ‘climate neutral’ by 2040. That entails a number of sub-goals around topics like noise mitigation and recycling, as well as promising to more than halve existing CO2 emissions by 2030. By 2040, it says it expects to shift to 100% renewable power, ending the use of diesel.

Pix4D was founded in 2011 and is based in Lausanne, Switzerland, though this project will be managed out of Pix4D’s Berlin office. According to Pix4D, the company is working to rapidly expand worldwide, with other international outposts in Madrid, Shanghai, Tokyo and Bucharest. In the U.S., the Pix4D Denver office opened in 2019. Other major moves worldwide from Pix4D include a partnership announced in 2021 with Beijing Skymap Technology  to allow it to become exclusive reseller of Pix4D’s tech in mainland China. 

Among Pix4D’s software products are:

  • PIX4Dfields for agriculture.
  • PIX4Dreact for emergency response.
  • PIX4Dcloud for online drone mapping, progress tracking, and site
  • PIX4Dinspect for automated industrial inspection and asset management
  • PIX4Dmatic for large scale or terrestrial.
  • PIX4Dsurvey for efficient terrain modeling and vectorization.
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