Press release

Digital revolution made in Austria now officially on track

DRUM: High-tech joint venture between SmartDigital Group and Plasser Group takes off

Tulln/Vienna, 29 March 2023

Now it’s official: the high-tech start-up DRUM (Dynamic Rail Utilities Monitoring) has been launched. The Tulln-based company is the result of a joint venture between the SmartDigital Group from Lower Austria, an expert in digital transformation services for critical infrastructure operators, and DRS – Digital Rail Solutions, which is part of the Plasser Group, a global technology leader in the field of track construction machinery. DRUM specialises in the digitalisation of the entire railway infrastructure.

The aim of the new company is to digitalise the entire railway infrastructure and to offer railway infrastructure operators a brand-new portfolio of products and solutions. Alexander Schuster, CEO, SmartDigital Group: “We are delighted that DRUM has now been launched, and that this Tulln-based company will play a key role in shaping the future of the railway system. DRUM boasts a high level of expertise in the field of drone-supported (UAS – unmanned aircraft systems) and AI-based detection for rail systems.”

Florian Auer, Director of Global Technology and Innovation, Plasser & Theurer believes that DRUM will enable the rail industry to take a significant step forward: “The Plasser Group has a wealth of expertise in rail and track data aggregation. Together with SmartDigital, we can now also digitalise the entire track system from the air using long- distance drones and make it available to rail infrastructure operators.”

Alexander Schuster and Florian Auer explain the aims of DRUM in a joint interview:

What were the strategic considerations behind the decision of SmartDigital and the Plasser Group to launch the DRUM joint venture?

Alexander Schuster: Without domain know-how, having an IT platform and the perfect UAS is not worth much in the rail sector. DRUM bundles the Plasser Group’s decades of expertise with knowledge of drone technologies and artificial intelligence, making it a highly qualified partner for the digitalisation of the rail industry.

Florian Auer: “Digitalisation is also having an impact on the railway industry, enabling us to meet the need for low- carbon mobility in the future. The Plasser Group and its partners would like to make a significant contribution in this area. With Smart Digital and DRUM, we have a partner at our side who helps us to complete our portfolio in order to be prepared for the challenges posed by digitalisation. This forms part of our new strategy for expanding our technology vision. Ultimately, combining technologies such as unmanned aerial systems (UAS) with IoT platforms offers infrastructure managers a lot of added value.”

What can rail infrastructure operators expect from this new joint venture?

Schuster: “The rail sector is currently undergoing major upheavals and changes as a result of the digital transformation. Much of what used to be done by hand and on foot is now slowly being digitalised. Infrastructure operators have to integrate their data and know-how into digital processes. Our main ambition is to provide rail infrastructure operators with a holistic solution.”

Auer: ”In order to achieve our climate targets, we have to expand the railway infrastructure and increase its capacity. This places significantly greater demands on the rail network. In this regard, fully automated, AI-based and unmanned control flights will ensure greater safety while AI data analytics will provide even more accuracy. This makes it easier to plan and optimise maintenance intervals.”

Each UAS flight generates several terabytes of data. How will these volumes be handled?

Schuster: “All flight movements and sensor data are documented, analysed and evaluated in a fraud- and tamper-proof blockchain by a specially programmed AI-based IoT service delivery platform called ARCA. On this platform, the resulting data can then be automatically classified, analysed and processed further. Customers have 24/7 access to these reports from anywhere in the world via the InfraScore web platform.”

High-tech “Made in Europe”

DRUM’s range of services includes UAS- and AI-based support for the planning of new routes, progress monitoring of construction work, fixed asset inventory and condition checks, as well as emergency and natural disaster inspections. The use of unmanned aerial vehicles for track inspections has the advantage that high-precision data can be automatically collected, stored and evaluated over large distances using a numerous high-performance sensors. This fully automated control system is particularly useful in terrain that is difficult to access, such as that found in the Alps: so far, this task has been handled by track runners, but this takes time, involves track closures and is potentially very dangerous. This is where fully automated long-distance drones (known as BVLOS, for “beyond visual line of sight”) can really make a difference, thanks to their long range and the option of bidirectional checks of track systems. Moreover, this also results in significantly reduced service intervals, which in turn translates into increased rail safety.

About DRUM | Dynamic Rail Utilities Monitoring GmbH

The Austrian high-tech company DRUM, founded in 2022 and headquartered in Tulln (Lower Austria), specialises in the inspection, inventory and digitalisation of the specific and extended track system, as well as the critical infrastructure of railroad networks.

DRUM enables railway network operators to digitalise their entire infrastructure as part of an end-to-end process, based on a novel portfolio of digital solutions. Planning, construction and maintenance work can now be automated and implemented in a resource- saving manner without any service interruptions, using a combination of AI-based technology, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and the amalgamation of data from different sources, such as point clouds from measurement vehicles or drones.

Long-range drones can now be used to monitor routes on which regular condition checks previously involved a lot of manpower and track closures. The collected data are then processed by an AI-based and blockchain-secured service delivery platform called ARCA©. Customisable IoT triggers alert operators to any deviations from the real-world data on which the AI has been trained, thus ensuring the highest possible levels of transparency and protection against falsification.

End-to-end digitalisation saves costs, increases the safety of passengers and employees, reduces CO2 emissions, lowers investment costs and allows for a higher cycle rate.

DRUM is a joint venture between Digital Railway Solutions AG, part of the Plasser Group, a global technology leader in track construction equipment, and the SmartDigital Group, an expert in digital transformation services for critical infrastructure operators.

Since January 2023, DRUM has been part of the Digital Railway Solutions Alliance (DRS), an association of 15 European pioneers in the field of railway technology that provide cutting-edge technology “Made in Europe”.

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