The American train business BNSF Railway has actually been licensed by the FAA to perform drone assessments out of the pilot’s view (BVLOS). The exemption is partly based on the advanced challenge detection and high degree of autonomy used by the drones of supplier Skydio. The drones will be deployed from tactically positioned docking stations.

BVLOS considering that 2015

For BNSF, making use of drones to carry out evaluations is a no-brainer. As early as 2014, the business investigated how drones could be utilized to check railway facilities. In 2015, the business operated the first civilian drone flight out of sight beyond visual view (BVLOS). Since that test flight, the BNSF drones have actually covered more than 45,000 kilometers throughout evaluation flights.

Up until now, all those BVLOS drone flights have actually been performed with large fixed-wing devices. These are not easy to deploy and require expert understanding. BNSF would therefore like to see chances to take off little, compact multi-rotor systems from strategically designed drone boxes– in this case, the Skydio Dock. This will all be possible thanks to the brand-new exemption.


Under the conditions of the exemption, BNSF is allowed to fly Skydio drones out of sight of the pilot, above rural parts of the railway infrastructure. All flights need to be operated up to an optimum of 33 metres above ground or objects, to avoid conflicts with manned airplane. During the flight operation, the challenge detection that is constructed into the drones is relied on. The objectives can be kept an eye on from Skydio Cloud.

Skydio X2 The drones that will be flown with are the type X2. The heart of the X2 drone is the Skydio Autonomy Core. This is a fast nvidia Tegra X2 processor that evades obstacles based upon video camera images and draws up a flight route’on the fly’. On board are seven 4K video cameras that together form a 360º view of the environment. There is also a stabilized electronic camera module with a 12MP optical camera and a 320 × 256 thermal imager.

According to Skydio, the waiver that BNSF has been granted indicates a next step on the self-governing ladder for drones. Performing autonomous operations, remotely supervised by operators, represents the 3rd action on this ladder, according to Skydio. In the future, multi-drone objectives and drone-as-a-service designs will also be possible, Skydio believes.