Meant to catch safety violators in the act, railroad drones, like those used by Union Pacific, are branded as safety hazards by the people they’re meant to watch. Many railroad workers are aghast at the drone activity aimed at monitoring for unsafe actions. They’re complaining that the presence and movement of the drones distract from potentially dangerous work in and around the tracks.
Originally used only rarely to inspect tracks or check conditions after an accident, the use of drones increases each year. Union Pacific started using drones to monitor railroad employees in 2017. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved Union Pacific’s use of drones back in 2015. Since then, Union Pacific increased their drone pilots to over a hundred and planned to double their number of them by the end of 2018.
This FAA-approved drone integration has its detractors. Union Pacific employees state that the drones cause a distraction that causes them to take their eyes off of the work at hand. Upon repeated complaints to the railroad, union officials and the FAA, Union Pacific halted their use of drones for employee surveillance while they speak with union representatives.
Railroad leadership is anxious to resume monitoring by drones because of its added ability to catch employees being unsafe on the job. One of the main results of drone monitoring is the citation of workers allegedly caught violating safety regulations at work.
While drones have many beneficial uses, care needs to be taken in their workplace integration. Possible safety issues caused by the presence of drones needs monitoring so that workers are not needlessly harmed on the job.