Wednesday, August 23, 2017

NS bridge inspection “drones” on

Written by  William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief, Railway Age
NS bridge inspection “drones” on Hazon Solutions LLC

Norfolk Southern has one of the most comprehensive drone-based railroad bridge inspection programs in the nation, recently surpassing more than 100,000 linear feet.

To conduct this safety-critical task, NS in early 2016 contracted with Virginia Beach, Va.-based HAZON Solutions, a leading U.S. developer of small, unmanned systems operations, capability development, training, safety and testing programs for drone inspection services.

Over the course of 18 months, HAZON has conducted more than 64 complete bridge inspections across the NS system in the eastern U.S. HAZON's inspections include complete coverage of the entire bridge using high definition (HD) still frame, video and thermal imaging cameras. HAZON inspection drones fly within 15 feet of the rail bridges to capture the highest quality pictures possible. Additionally, HAZON drone inspection teams utilize proprietary techniques to fly under and inside bridge spans, "collecting imagery from angles previously unavailable," the company said.

"We're very proud to announce this remarkable milestone," said CEO and co-founder David A. Culler, Jr. CAPT USN (ret). "We are the industry leader for the inspection of critical infrastructure, and Norfolk Southern is leading the rail industry with the safe and practical integration of unmanned systems into their operations."

"When we say comprehensive, we truly mean it," said COO and co-founder Sean Cushing, CDR USN (ret). "We're not just getting exterior shots, we're flying underneath and inside the voids of bridges to make sure critical load bearing areas are covered from every possible angle. We also capture shots of every bottom lateral and gusset plate. Best of all, we don't consume any track time. We collect actionable information and trains keep moving."

"This milestone is great for HAZON, but also great for the entire drone industry," said Culler. "Norfolk Southern has proven that UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) technology is a safe and effective tool for critical infrastructure inspections. The experience and expertise that HAZON has gained on the UAS inspection front have been invaluable; it has allowed us to move beyond proof-of-concept and into the transition period of integrating drones into the daily workflow. It's a very exciting time for the entire drone ecosystem and the customers we serve."

HAZON established itself inspecting power transmission lines in the energy sector and launched the drone fleet management software known as HAZON DMS. HAZON also provides training and consulting services to large enterprises, helping them to build organic drone programs. HAZON has extensive experience in naval carrier aviation and intelligence systems. The company's leadership team has more than 100 years of cumulative command and operations experience in hostile aerial environments, sharing a background of flying fighter jets from aircraft carriers. HAZON CEO David Culler, Jr., spent 26 years flying for the U.S. Navy, retiring as Commanding Officer of Norfolk Naval Station.