Union Pacific is Using Drones to Monitor Railroad Employees

Indian Railways began using drones at some of their most highly visited stations as a means of risk management and crowd control.  Now it’s the American company called Union Pacific that’s using drones to its advantage. The company is flying drones over its railroad sites to monitor its workers and find out if they are correctly following safety instructions.

The Wall Street Journal reported that this aerial surveillance is designed to reveal any departure from the established policies. It will reveal something as small as jumping off a slow-moving train to crossing between cars that are only 100 feet apart.  The company is trying to ensure that its workers follow all safety rules so hence the use of drones to monitor its workers. The railroad workers’ union strongly disagrees with the company’s big brother method.

Since the adoption of this policy, Union Pacific’s safety hotline has been very busy with calls from employees complaining that the constant buzzing of the drones above is endangering and distracting them from doing their jobs.  The new drone adoption policy is regarded as a serious hazard for workers, notes some employees. They claim that workers are no longer looking down at their work, but instead are looking above. A committee comprised of 1,600 rail workers advised its members to lodge complaints with the FAA and the Federal Railroad Administration.

Union Pacific has since stopped the new practice so that it can reevaluate the system and arrive at an agreeable strategy with the union. Spokeswoman Raquel Espinoza explained that they hope the committee will help to establish a collaborative system to address unsafe actions and protect the employees.  While vital infrastructures such as railroads and pipelines are increasingly profiting from the adoption of modern unmanned aerial vehicles, when it comes to remote monitoring, many people find it a novel concept that may taking some getting used to.

In reality, drone surveillance is just a way of monitoring employees.  In the area of safety, many will agree that drones can help keep workers safe at work.  Earl Lawrence is an operator at the FAA’s drone-integration branch. He stated that the unending use cases of drones is impressive. Even though it’s unclear whether this particular situation will benefit everyone involved, it’s still a new way to use drones in an industrial setting.

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