Droning On

Cowtown’s own BNSF Railroad Co.  announced in May that it would be partnering with the FAA on a new drone program for its railway system.

Company spokesman Roxanne Butler says the company will soon be in the testing stage. Plans call for small, unmanned aircraft systems to assist in the inspection of railroad infrastructure and operations.

“The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) is intended to allow BNSF to maximize safety in railroad operations,” the company said. “The use of UAVs does not, however, eliminate the need for in-person visual inspections required by the Federal Railroad Administration.” Approval by the FAA allows BNSF to supplement those inspections with aerial surveillance. The company believes using drones will allow safer inspection procedures for BNSF personnel as well as a safer and more efficient railroad network.

The FAA has been working with industry partners like BNSF on three focus areas including: visual line-of-sight operations in urban areas; extended visual line-of-sight operations in rural areas; and beyond visual line-of-sight in rural and isolated areas.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in March when the department initially announced the program, “This is a big job, and we’ll get to our goal of safe, widespread unmanned aircraft systems integration more quickly by leveraging the resources and expertise of the industry.”—Sean Chaffin