Launching at a tower site near Vaughn, New Mexico, Insitu accomplished the first commercial beyond visual line of sight operation with an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS). Unmanned aircraft technology can be a powerful force in the effort to further enhance railway safety and infrastructure inspection. Insitu is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Boeing Company.
The flight was part of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s Pathfinder program, an initiative to develop UAS regulations in collaboration with industry that was announced in May. In its first day of operations, ScanEagle provided real-time video covering 64 miles (103 km) of the 132-mile (212 km) stretch of track BNSF has designated for the exercise. ScanEagle is capable of flying for up to 24 hours at speeds of up to 80 knots (148 km/h).
„We are honored to partner with BNSF and the FAA to explore how our technology can extend the capabilities of manned resources to support the safety of critical infrastructure and the people charged with inspecting those assets,” said Insitu President and CEO Ryan M. Hartman.
„Our Pathfinder project is expected to be a significant enhancement to the tremendous amount of data and information we already gather as part of our track inspection program,” said Greg Fox, executive vice president for operations at BNSF Railway.