BOSTON (CBS) – Keolis, the agency that operates the Commuter Rail, says drones are helping them do their jobs safely and more efficiently.
The agency has only purchased one drone so far, and have been using it for about a year.
In that time, it’s helped them manage over-grown vegetation along the tracks, keep an eye on low-hanging trees and branches and even leaves that create slippery rail conditions.
The drone has also made it easier to conduct track inspections and repairs, especially in tough to reach places like bridges.
Instead of putting an employee in a dangerous position, Keolis says a drone can just as easily fly over the structure and capture video and images of what needs to be repaired.
Keolis Chief Engineer Pascal Baran says the technology especially comes in handy during crisis management situations like trespasser strikes, derailments and spills.
“If we’ve got a derailment, say a freight train that derailed on our track, we don’t know if there is spillage, chemical,” said Baran. “So instead of sending someone in the field we can send a drone pilot with a drone, keep them far away from the crash site and they can fly the drone safely over that. We can collect information without endangering anybody.”
Baran says the drone footage can be watched from a Keolis crisis room and eventually live streamed so that experts in other cities and watch and help Keolis during emergencies.
Keolis is planning on purchasing a second, much more advanced drone called “The Elios.”
This model would allow them to fly through tunnels and other areas along the commuter rail where they currently cannot safely fly. The agency currently has two certified drone pilots but is hoping to have a total of seven by next year.
Keolis is also working with MassDOT and the MBTA to help them incorporate drones into their operations.