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Osaka Metro uses drones to inspect hard-do-get-to places in stations

A drone inspects Awaza Station on the Sennichimae Line of the Osaka Metro in Osaka's Nishi Ward on Oct. 29, 2020. The image has been partially modified. (Mainichi/Naohiro Yamada)

OSAKA -- A subway station inspection process that used to take a lot of time and effort has been made easier with the adoption of drones by Osaka Metro Co.

    At Osaka Metro's Awaza Station in Osaka's Nishi Ward, the platform is silent after the last train of the night has departed -- except for the quiet buzz of a micro drone the size of one's palm being flown around the station.

    Osaka Metro implemented the use of drones in its inspections of structures on their platforms in February 2020. The work has been commissioned to a specialized business based in Tokyo, and workers use a drone to check inside the ceiling, and other hard-to-reach places.

    Equipped with a 360-degree omnidirectional camera, it weaves its way through pipes and captures footage. Subsequently, technicians at Osaka Metro analyze the footage, and check if there are any abnormalities such as water leaks.

    Before Osaka Metro adopted the drone method, inspecting the inside of the ceiling of the platform entailed setting up scaffolding and crawling into the small space. But with the drone, it only takes about 2 hours per station.

    An Osaka Metro public relations official said, "We now know that we can use the drone to save labor and conduct safe inspections. We'd like to consider using the drones for manholes and tunnels, too."

    (Japanese original by Naohiro Yamada, Osaka Photo Department)

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