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Fri Mar 16, 2018, 09:38 PM

Drones Are Watching: Railroad Irks Workers With Unmanned Aircraft

Drones Are Watching: Railroad Irks Workers With Unmanned Aircraft

Workers say drones are a distraction; the railroad says the program will coach employees in correcting behaviors that could cause serious injury

By Paul Ziobro

Updated March 14, 2018 9:57 a.m. ET

Union Pacific Corp. UNP 0.66% riled employees recently when it started flying drones over some of its railroad yards to ensure workers were following safety guidelines. ... The aerial spotters were looking for any number of behaviors that deviate from the railroad’s rule book, from passing between railcars that are less than 100 feet apart to climbing off moving equipment.

The response from the railroad workers’ union? Urging the rank and file to flood Union Pacific’s safety hotline with complaints that the drones make their jobs more dangerous. ... Workers say that rather than promote safety, the drones create a hazard by distracting them when they should be laser-focused while around 200-ton locomotives and railcars moving along the tracks, according to Steve Simpson, general chairperson with the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers. “They are no longer looking ahead or at their task at hand,” he said. “They’re looking up.”

Drone use is still in its infancy in the railroad industry. Companies have sought to incorporate it into operations to inspect bridges and track, assess damage after natural disasters and map their networks. Other proposed or active uses have included spotting trespassers, air-quality tests and aerial photography. .... Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s BNSF railroad, which, like Union Pacific, operates in the Western U.S., has worked closely with the FAA to find ways to incorporate drones into its operations. After obtaining waivers to fly drones outside the line of sight of their operators, BNSF in 2015 flew an unmanned, fixed-wing aircraft over 270 miles in New Mexico to inspect tracks. The railroad said it was the first commercially operated drone to fly beyond its pilot’s line of sight within the lower 48 states. ... Since then, BNSF has received permission to conduct tests on more than 2,000 miles of track, including at night.

Norfolk Southern Corp. uses drones only for bridge inspections, a spokeswoman said. CSX uses the aircraft to monitor its rail network, collect data and conduct security checks. Drones also have been used as part of installing so-called positive train control, a new, federally mandated safety system, a spokesman said. ... Union Pacific first received FAA approval to use drones in 2015. It now has 126 employees on staff certified to fly them and has used them to inspect bridges and flood damage, among other uses. Union Pacific plans to have as many as 250 trained drone pilots by the end of 2018 and is also looking into self-flying drones.
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Write to Paul Ziobro at Paul.Ziobro@wsj.com

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Reply Drones Are Watching: Railroad Irks Workers With Unmanned Aircraft (Original post)
mahatmakanejeeves Mar 2018 OP
elleng Mar 2018 #1

Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Fri Mar 16, 2018, 09:51 PM

1. SURE will coach employees in correcting behaviors that could cause serious injury!!!

Employees must LOVE it!

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