Rail Insider-Inside BNSF’s advanced drone inspection operation. Information For Rail Career Professionals From Progressive Railroading Magazine

By Vesna Brajkovic, Associate Editor 

BNSF Railway Co.
is leveraging drone technology to bolster inspection processes for its rail network, refine predictive analytics capabilities and test long-range drone operations to set the stage for future use in the industry.

In various departments, the railroad employs pilots who are certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), more commonly known as drones. The employees use the technology to supplement maintenance-of-way inspections, BNSF Telecommunications Director Todd Graetz said in an email.

When drones are equipped with cameras and sensors, they can be used to collect data, images, video, LiDAR surveys and more — material that’s useful in supplementing inspection information gathered in more traditional ways.

“At BNSF, we see UAVs as a deployment tool that can help us leverage the use of various sensors to continue to make the railroad even safer,” Graetz said. “Equipping our UAVs with

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