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Drones serving the needs of industry

SNCF Réseau uses drones for its inspection, surveillance and maintenance work. The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) has increased the reliability and performance of the French railway network. The expertise which has been gained with drones is now available to serve company needs.

ALTAMETRIS – a team of experts with dedicated resources

Created in March 2017, ALTAMETRIS is a subsidiary of SNCF Réseau, and is dedicated to providing drone solutions to companies. The subsidiary’s expertise and resources allow it to provide customized solutions and to manage operations from start to finish. The drone experts have cutting edge equipment in terms of innovation and technology:

  • Drones and robots: Weighing 2 to 20 kilograms, these flying vehicles range from rotary multicopters to fixed wing drones. ALTAMETRIS operates several types of aircrafts depending on the complexity and needs of the operation. The fixed-wing drone is more resistant and, for example, can cover longer distances. On the other hand, the multicopter is more agile and can be used for stationary flights and is able to collect detailed data.
  • Sensors: these devices collect data. Depending on the customer’s needs, drones can be equipped with photo/high definition video equipment, multispectral thermal cameras (infrared frequency band) and/or LiDAR (laser system that measures 3D environment).
  • ALTAMETRIS has a high performance IT infrastructure and a relevant operating system and data acquisition/processing software. There are many data processing tools which assemble and process data to ensure that the customer can utilise this data according to its needs.

In addition, conducting R&D (research and development) represents a major investment. These projects include work in several fields, but with a particular focus on sensors, the designing of innovative solutions and data processing.

R&D has performed many experiments using drones from partner companies and has built a fixed-wing drone. Scientific and regulatory partnerships have also been established with a wide range of organisations and companies such as:

  • ONERA (French aerospace research laboratory);
  • DGAC (French civil aviation authority);
  • DELAIR TECH, a start-up firm specialised in drone design and data analysis;
  • Authorities: CNIL (French agency for personal data protection) and ARCEP ( French telecommunications regulator).
Key figures

Overview of ALTAMETRIS:

  • Dedicated team of 20 drone pilots, analysts and developers
  • Fleet of approximately 12 drones and robots
  • IT resources to process images, videos and point clouds

Challenging performance limits

As a pioneer in the field, ALTAMETRIS undertakes large-scale, major projects. Its drones are able to meet very specific needs, including those in difficult environments. Four types of services are available:

  • Topography and Cartography: linear or surface, creation of maps, provision of data for information systems and the detection/classification of objects.
  • Inspection: linear or surface, collection and modelling, detection and measurements of defects in buildings, infrastructure and different types of industrial installations.
  • Security/Safety: roundsman system (patrols with very frequent passages within a large perimeter), site surveillance (in conjunction with the SNCF Surveillance department), for prevention – deterrence – detection – intervention related to malicious acts aimed at industrial installations.
  • Media and communication: creation of films and photos dedicated to advertising or crisis management, including in real time.

Our Activities are focused on providing data services:

  • Collection and measurement – mainly on site through the deployment of solutions involving sensors/automated vectors. These solutions are compliant with the standards specific to the relevant industrial sector.
  • Operation and optimisation – the processing chain includes the verification (quality/accuracy), data editing and extraction of useful information in order to input this data into the Asset Management information systems.
  • Support, consulting and audits – help the Asset Manager process the data in order to reach performance objectives (security, availability, reliability, capacity, cost).
  • Creation of turnkey solutions – from the needs analysis to the provision of the data, via the implementation of vectors/sensors and data processing. The R&D Division is a major contributor in our activity to imagining and creating solutions for the future.

A new high performance tool for industry


Designed to increase responsiveness and productivity, a drone or robot is an agile and easy-to-use tool which can be used to:

  • collect specific data without disrupting processing;
  • optimise the time and safety of employees by keeping them away from dangerous areas;
  • conduct a detailed inspection of installations, especially hard to access sites;
  • make quick decisions on maintenance actions to be taken;
  • improve risk detection and anticipate future work needs;
  • reduce works-related costs thanks to better predictive planning.

An innovative solution, unique in the world

Drones were first applied to the railway system to respond to the need of the network for availability and reliability. However, at present ALTAMETRIS is in a position to provide companies with innovative and expert solutions for the management and maintenance of their infrastructures. It is the only one in the global market to:

  • have moved beyond an experimental phase with deployment for large scale infrastructure;
  • design and implement a specific drone system which includes customised features for every project (the drone and the sensors are specially designed to address the complexity of the operation and environment);
  • have expert skills and knowledge of the high added value technology required for Long Range Drones. These drones can be used for maintenance operations which last several hours and cover dozens of kilometres;
  • have developed a plug and play fixed-wing drone which make is possible to interchange sensors without having to change the flying vehicle. This means that recent peripherals are quickly and automatically recognised by the operating system as soon as the equipment has been connected and that there is no need to restart the computer;
  • provide expertise and advice which is applied to the work-related processes, implementation and operation of the drone.

A few examples of the multiple uses of drones

Operation Aims Added value

Vegetation control

Detect trees which are dangerous for railway transport
  • Precise assessment
  • Analyse scale and cost of works

Visit rock walls

Detect rockslide events
  • Collection of complete and precise data
  • Quick analysis of risks
  • Employee safety

Inspection of hard to access areas (roofs, bridge structures, electric stations).

Detect damage and define areas where works will be undertaken
  • Collection of complete and precise data.
  • Analysis of risks, works and costs
  • Employee safety

Post weather events diagnosis

Identify impacted areas, especially after a storm
  • Quick and complete collection of data
  • Analysis of risks, works and costs

Topographical surveys

Acquire required data for studies and regeneration, modernisation or creation projects
  • Precise data collection
  • Quick response
  • Cost lower than plane or helicopter
Security of railway network Detect unauthorised access of individuals and prevent malicious acts
  • Broad and discreet coverage of perimeter
  • Higher frequency of patrol checks
  • Support for ground-based personnel

From the definition of the operation to the processing of data

ALTAMETRIS is a real drone solutions architect and provides companies with a turnkey solution which is complete and totally customised to their needs. Customers therefore benefit from expert support at all stages of the operation, from the needs analysis to the processing of data:

  • Needs analysis:

- analysis of customer needs and expected deliverables

- creation of a customised solution

- technical and regulatory feasibility (aerial and industrial environment)

  • Development of solution:

- definition of value chain (deliverable, data, sensors, drone)

- market analysis

- implementation of high value-added solutions (hybrid drones, LiDAR*, etc.)

* remote sensing using lasers

  • Execution of operation:

- deployment of solution in operational condition and execution of recurrent operations

- support decision-maker

- assistance provided for project management

  • Data delivery:

- quality assurance of data (precision and completeness)

- processing (collection, cleansing, combination, merger)

- needs-based application of data (creation of orthophotographs, topographical plans, study of land cover, etc.)

- integration into databases, information systems and geographic layer, related web service

- big data management