Railroads need specific FAA authority to operate drones for any reason, including security. Some railroads have applied, so far only BNSF, UP and KCS have received approval (my search used the letters "RAIL" so there could be others not using those letters in its name) and I specifically did a quick review of the FAA authorization for BNSF. Here are a few of the many limitations imposed by the FAA. The permission is limited to three specific models of drones, that are somewhere around the 10 to 15 pound weight class. Drones can only be operated only over BNSF property to an altitude not to exceed 400 feet, and air traffic control/airport operator coordination/communication is required within 5 miles of all airports. Drones must be kept within clear visual range of a ground based observer at all times. The operator of the drone must hold at a minimum a private pilot's certificate (license) with current medical certificate. As an example here is the specific language as to the pilot in command (PIC) requirement: "16) The PIC must possess at least a private pilot certificate and a third-class airman medical certificate. The PIC must also meet the flight review requirements specified in 14 CFR § 61.56 in an aircraft in which the PIC is rated on his or her pilot certificate."Backshophoss wrote:The RR PD's are beginning to use drones as part of their security efforts,so here come the "run ins" with
railfan owned drones.
It's a matter of time untill a drone gets caught up in the Catenary of the NEC,MN or NJT with some form of
The FAA is understandably behind in the review of several thousand applications for commercial drone approval so there may be other railroad applicants.
Non-commercial hobby use (no money or other compensation paid, including compensation by publishers for use of photos, not associated with employment, business, etc.) drone operators, except for very tiny ones and indoor use only, recently need to follow new FAA on-line registration and on-line training completion for legal use. The 400 foot maximum altitude, keep in clear visual range, prior communication/coordination with airports within 5 miles of all (except indoor) drone flights, not flying within temporary flight restrictions within specifically specified several to 30 miles of emergencies, presidential visits, etc. also is required. Note that all airports, including those without any tower or air traffic control facility on the property, are included within the 5 mile restriction. So for, example, if a drone operator wished to operate a drone at any altitude in Hoffman Park in Hunterdon County, NJ adjacent to the NS Lehigh Line, or near the Line's tunnel in West Portal near I-78, those locations are within 5 miles of Alexandria Field Airport and the FAA requires contacting the airport fixed base operator prior to drone flight. There have been many near misses reported between manned aircraft of all types and sized and drones in the last couple of years, resulting in a serious safety concern.