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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Trespasser Detection on Railroad Property Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Document Series
Technical Reports
Federal Railroad Administration
Report Number
Subject Grade Crossing Technology, Highway-Rail Grade Crossings, Trespass Countermeasures
Highway-rail, grade crossing, humped crossing, photogrammetry, LiDAR

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center (Volpe), under the direction of DOT’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Office of Research, Development and Technology (RD&T), conducted a research study that evaluated the effectiveness of using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to detect trespassers on railroad property. The team cooperated with the Brunswick, Maine Police Department (BPD), which agreed to be trained in operating and maintaining the UAV, and to perform periodic overflights of the railroad property in Brunswick.  Over the course of twelve months, BPD conducted 32 flights over railroad property, but was unable to discover trespassing events in progress. The researchers concluded that certain types of trespassing, which occurs frequently but in short duration, were more difficult to detect using a UAV than trespassing that involves loitering on the right-of-way. However, the UAV made it easier for BPD to patrol remote, hard-to-reach sections of track.

Last updated: Tuesday, August 25, 2020