Irish Rail is to use high-tech drones to map the railway network for damage and coordinate responses to major incidents including flooding.
The company will go to the market in the new year seeking a 'unmanned aerial vehicle' (UAV) which is capable of taking high-definition images and provide a live video feed to operators.
The move comes after the company contracted an outside company to provide drone photography to assess flood levels around sections of track near Carrick-on-Shannon, which were closed for 16 days following Storm Desmond, and which were inaccessible by road and rail.
The drones will be used to conduct boundary and topographic surveys, structural inspections and monitoring and vegetation surveys. It will also allow for incident response and to track risks to the network from climate change.
"Our main climate change challenges are coastal erosion on the Wexford line and flood events throughout the network and their increasing prevalence," a spokesman said.
"We would have historically flown the Wexford line from time to time with aerial photography by helicopter, but drone technology is so much more affordable and useful.
"We envisage greater effectiveness and flexibility in monitoring our infrastructure, and a lot of potential savings with the use of this technology."
The rail network includes 2,400km of track and a wide range of infrastructure including bridges, viaducts, cuttings and embankments and coastal defences.
The company will seek tenders in January to supply a multi-rotor unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and training for up to 10 staff.
The drone must include a 30 mega-pixel camera capable of taking high-definition images and video.