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Transforming Rail Inspections: FMT's Robotics Pilot Program with Downer Rail & Transit Systems

In an exciting collaboration, FMT joined forces with Downer Rail & Transit Systems (RTS) to embark on a Robotics Pilot Program. FMT brought its expertise in autonomous systems, visual inspection and measurement sensors, and configuration to Downer RTS assets. Over a five-month period, FMT worked closely with Downer RTS to implement innovative robotics solutions, leading to remarkable results and substantial benefits for the client.

Downer Rail & Transit Systems (RTS) is a renowned company in the rail industry, specialising in the design, manufacture, and maintenance of rail systems. The pilot program took place in Sydney and Melbourne, where Downer RTS operates critical rail infrastructure.

FMT's involvement in the Robotics Pilot Program with Downer RTS encompassed a range of cutting-edge technologies and solutions. The program incorporated the utilisation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for train and facility inspections, walking robots equipped with Simultaneous Localisation & Mapping (SLAM) systems for autonomous navigation trials, and wheeled robots with FMT's proprietary sensors to automate train underframe inspections.

Throughout the pilot program, FMT encountered various challenges that needed to be addressed. The integration of different technologies, including drones, Spot Mini robots, and underframe inspection robots, required careful planning and coordination. Additionally, optimising the performance of these systems while conducting inspections outside the maintenance shed posed logistical and operational challenges.

FMT's approach to tackling these challenges was both unique and effective. The team leveraged its expertise in robotics and sensor technologies to customise and fine-tune the solutions for Downer RTS. By trialing a wide range of systems, sensors, and robots, FMT demonstrated the flexibility and adaptability of its solutions. The use of a robot arm for maintenance inspection tasks and the capture of high-fidelity data using drones showcased the innovative capabilities of FMT's technology.

The Robotics Pilot Program yielded valuable insights and numerous benefits for Downer RTS. The concept of operation and solution proposed by FMT delivered the following significant advantages:

  1. Safety Enhancements: The use of drones eliminated the need for isolation requirements of electrical and mechanical equipment during inspections, reducing safety risks. Moreover, working at heights requirements were minimised, ensuring the safety of personnel involved in asset inspections.
  2. Repeatable Accuracy: FMT's solutions enabled high-accuracy and repeatable measurements of rolling stock. Historical data recording facilitated easy access and ensured data integrity, improving decision-making processes.
  3. Operations Optimisation: By detecting infrastructure and rolling stock faults in advance, the program minimised downtime and corrective maintenance costs. The reduction of tasks performed inside the maintenance shed increased overall capacity and resilience. This, in turn, led to improved train availability and potential opportunities for increased customer satisfaction.
  4. Cost Reduction: Automation of labor-intensive inspection tasks reduced the need for manual labor, resulting in significant cost savings. Optimised management of key subsystems based on accurate data further contributed to cost reductions.

FMT's Robotics Pilot Program with Downer Rail & Transit Systems showcased the transformative power of robotics in the rail industry. By leveraging autonomous systems, innovative sensors, and advanced robotics technologies, FMT proved the capability of their innovative products and successfully achieved the outcomes for Downer RTS. The integration of these solutions promises a bright future for automated rail inspections, ensuring improved safety, accuracy, and operational efficiency.