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Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) manufacturer Insitu Inc. earlier this week kicked off the first in a series of UAS flights over a segment of BNSF Railway Co.'s track in New Mexico.During its first day of operations, Insitu's ScanEagle provided real-time video coverage for 64 miles of the 132-mile stretch of track that BNSF has designated for the exercise. The Oct. 25 event marked the beginning of a weeklong series of flights with BNSF designed to demonstrate how UAS technology can be use to enhance railway safety and infrastructure inspection, according to an Insitu press release.
The flight was part of the Federal Aviation Administration's Pathfinder program, which was launched in May to help the government develop UAS regulations in collaboration with various industries. BNSF was one of the three companies selected to participate in program."Our Pathfinder project is expected to be a significant enhancement to the tremendous amount of data and information we already gather as part of our track inspection program," said Greg Fox, BNSF's executive vice president for operations. "The capabilities these aircraft have to gather additional intelligence that can then be fed in real time to track inspectors on the ground will fundamentally enhance our program and the safety of the our railroad while helping to keep our people safe in harsh and extreme conditions."Flights will continue through the end of the week, Insitu officials said.Last month, Progressive Railroading covered how BNSF and other railroads are exploring the use of UAS along their tracks. Follow this link to read the story.