Wall Street Journal, Kim S. Nash, September 19, 2018
Companies are finding more uses for unmanned aerial vehicles as drone technology and video analytics tools improve. A prime goal for BNSF Railway Co. and Allstate Corp., among other firms flying drones, is to keep employees out of dangerous situations during property inspections. BNSF uses drones to inspect railway infrastructure, some high above land or built into the edges of mountains, freeing human inspectors from having to clamber over and under bridges. “Looking under a bridge with a drone – it’s much easier to do that,” said CIO Muru Murugappan. Inspectors want video to capture detail such as signs of steel degradation in places hard for a human to get to, for example. Mr. Murugappan’s technology group oversees the railroad’s drone projects, including the data analytics work on the images the machines collect. His team defines test programs, with input from business counterparts, he said. Drones also are being used by the railroad company to augment employee tasks at ground level, tackling potential crime in its train yards. Cargo theft remains a problem for U.S. railroads and BNSF’s private police unit sometimes sends up a drone to check out reports of trespassers in train yards or near track.