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Aerial images will improve safety and operation of Swiss railroads

Photo: n.a.

​Mapping the vegetation along railroads in Switzerland benefits several stakeholders and is done most efficiently thanks to COWI's state-of-the-art mapping approach

​The Swiss Railroad Authorities (SBB) have awarded COWI the project of mapping vegetation along 3,000 km of railroads, corresponding to about 60 per cent of the entire rail network. The objectives are to identify and manage possible threats to rail operation, with the use of aerial images. The initiative is launched to obtain comprehensive and complete information about the vegetation, especially trees, which may potentially damage rail facilities and/or affect daily rail services.

Multi-purpose mapping

In Switzerland, COWI acquires aerial images along the railroad network. Using these, our specialists measure the height of the vegetation and thereby assess the clearance or the safety space next to the rail tracks. Furthermore, the data will be used as input to management of the vegetation, including decisions on where to cut back vegetation and trees.

Improved solution in the Alps

COWI offers a solution where we acquire aerial images from an altitude higher than 3,000 m. This allows us to cover larger areas, yet still get high-resolution images by using our state-of-the-art digital cameras. A further advantage is that the images offer an almost perfect vertical view with no shadowing effects. A conventional assessment of the vegetation along railway tracks could be done by simple inspection on site. When the first aerial surveys were made, helicopters were used, since they could easily trace the railroad tracks in the mountainous landscape, however, the helicopter solution was expensive.

Aerial photogrammetric imagery is the ideal input material for generating a 3D surface model and classification of the vegetation.

The technology to extract detailed forest information from aerial images and LiDAR data is a trademark of COWI Mapping's Forestry Group in Norway, which has developed this competency over the past seven years.

"By applying the same approach as in Switzerland, we can in general support maintenance and operations for rail or road network operators as well as for forestry, while optimising our productivity,” says Michael Schultz Rasmussen, International Market Director of Mapping.

Published 14.1.2016
By Josefine Ussing jous@cowi.com

​Global cooperation

COWI in Denmark carries out the aerial survey and provides project management and technological and methodological support. COWI in India handles aerial data processing. COWI in Poland delivers vegetation data-processing and land surveying on site, and COWI in Norway carries out the complex vegetation analysis. As a local external partner, EBP (Ernst Basler + Partner) will provide support by contributing other specialised tools used for calculating the vegetation-free space.

LAST UPDATED: 15.12.2016