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Home / News & Reviews / News Wire / Drone pilot weaves through freight train on video NEWSWIRE

Drone pilot weaves through freight train on video NEWSWIRE

By R G Edmonson | September 22, 2017

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RENO, Nev. — Flying low, through a truss bridge, under a Union Pacific train, and even in a boxcar are just a few of the stunts a drone pilot shows off in a YouTube video while a UP mixed freight is in motion.

The video, embedded above, went live on Sept. 20 and has already received more than 250,000 views as of Friday morning. The recording shows a double-tracked right-of-way bridging a river near a highway. The location appears to be just south of Verdi, Nev., on former Southern Pacific tracks over the Truckee River — also the route of Amtrak’s California Zephyr.

Federal Aviation Administration representatives responded to Trains News Wire’s request for comment and said that if the pilot were a hobbyist, that person would have to follow local community safety standards such as ones spelled out by the Academy of Model Aeronautics.

“… [T]he relevant part of which says, ‘All pilots shall avoid flying directly over unprotected people, vessels, vehicles or structures and shall avoid endangerment of life and property of others,'” says FAA representative Les Dorr. “A train would qualify as a ‘vehicle.'”

Dorr also cited UP’s drone policy which requires prior written permission from the railroad before a pilot may take off, land on, or fly over UP property. UP’s rules are online. In the video, viewers can see the drone weave between freight cars, come close to the open window of the lead locomotive, fly underneath a hopper car, fly inside a boxcar, and briefly land on top of what appears to be a boxcar roof.

Calls to Union Pacific and the Federal Railroad Administration were not immediately returned.

25 thoughts on “Drone pilot weaves through freight train on video NEWSWIRE

  1. Without getting involved in all the legal and ethical issues….what is the trestle-like structure running across the frame, visible between approximately 0:19 and 0:23? Some kind of mining tramway or sluice, perhaps?

  2. I don’t think it was ever established that this man was a railfan, as we would normally think of one, was it? He could have been out flying his drone somewhere near some UP tracks when the train came by and just took advantage of the situation.

  3. Idiot can fly pretty well. I sure wouldn’t risk what ever one of those infernal flyin’ flivvers cost doing that. But money is no object, nor is any sort of propriety of respect, to the age group it appears the fool is when he lands.

  4. While I don’t condone stunts like this, it was impressive flying. Pretty sure it was in violation of one or more FAA rules. But I do not see where the UP can regulate the airspace above its property; that’s the sole jurisdiction of the FAA.

  5. There is something called the Drone Racing League, if the pilot is not arrested by then, he should enter and compete. Over wise, what he did was dangerous and silly!!! It makes it hard for true rail fans to view trains without the railroads and authorities giving us trouble do to fools like this and he many not even be a rail fan!!!

  6. I actually found myself wishing a train coming the other direction would catch him by surprise and smash his little toy to smithereens…

  7. Another case of abject, egotistical, arrogant, ignorant, and selfish irresponsible behavior by a railfan. Dangerous to the railroad, the train, and any people who would be harmed. And now will cause scrutiny, rejection, and prosecutor restrictions of legitimate railfans and drone photographers even not railfans. A miscue by the operator could have had the drone clip an air hose or foul brake gear or even fall under a wheel and conceivably derail a car and train. Not only should the photographer be prosecuted for this violation but also not allowed to own and operate drones. We railfans have enough challenges getting legitimate trackside pictures today, we should not allow the likes of this guy further remove us from our hobby.

  8. I cannot imagine what possible damage a drone could cause to any part of a train, unless it an full speed into a cab window. For those of you who have not been around a drone, they are fragile and expensive. Other than possibly obstructing the view of the head end crew, there is nothing one of these can do but take pictures. Fly into and out of a boxcar-so what. Fly over under and between cars-so what. It does NOTHING to the equipment. If there are laws against what this person did, and he gets caught, then he should pay the price, but until drones are a LOT bigger and more powerful, they cannot stop, derail, wreck or otherwise damage a train. They are much more of a threat to you and me as an invasion of privacy if they fly over/into our property. If one flies over, under, or around my semi, it will either get it done or get ruined by being hit or run over. And if it flies in my cab window, then I just got myself a drone.

  9. I couldn’t stand the inappropriate, annoying music so I shut the video off. I found the footage disrespectful and meaningless to the aspect of railroading. Not informative or entertaining at all.

  10. Not sure what damage could be done by a drone that weighs less than a pound. FYI, the pilot is a professional ESPN DRL pilot named Nurk and he hasn’t hidden his identity. With all those that have claimed to have reported him to the FAA, UP and Homeland Security if he hasn’t been fined yet it’s because the agencies most likely don’t care.

  11. Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Drone) Policy

    Unmanned aircraft systems (or “drones”) flown for commercial or recreational purposes must adhere to the following:
    Union Pacific operates in a safety-sensitive environment. Never operate a drone in a manner that could distract or otherwise endanger yourself, Union Pacific employees, equipment or the public.
    All drone pilots must operate in compliance with applicable Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations and safety guidelines. Flying a drone in a reckless manner is a violation of federal law and FAA regulations and could result in civil fines or criminal action.
    Drones may not take off from, land on or fly over Union Pacific property unless the pilot is authorized to do so in writing by a specific agreement with Union Pacific.

    For aerial photography/video requests, please contact Tom Lange, AVP-Corp. Comm., at
    This is from Union Pacific Website.

  12. I’m very disappointed to see someone doing this. A thrill seeker stacking up personal victories has just paved the way for others with a different kind of victory to seek. This was ultra irresponsible. What troubles me more is that so many people no longer seem to have a sense of what’s right or wrong. Spell it out for them and they just trash you in return with vague references to the constitution and their “rights.” If you have to explain it to them, they’ll never get it. Never. I hope that law enforcement finds some way to nab them for that. If you just have to do something like that, do you have to post it for the whole world to see? Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid.


  13. One more thing: quit saying the guy flies well. Those drones are not flying in the traditional sense. Theyre’ about as close as you can get to a video game,

  14. As a long time miniature aircraft pilot, and a model railroader, my opinion is that people like this should be grounded. Unsafe or show off flying has come close on several occasions, at least since around 2011 or so,to not merely getting the so called drone fliers and the associated industry potentially shut down, but has also come very close to getting FAA instituted control over the entire recreational miniature (model) aircraft spectrum nationwide. Another case of a relatively small number of irresponsible people bringing bad press and publicity to a large group of people. And doing this around a moving train is almost nothing compared to what others have done.

  15. Almost forgot: Thanks for putting up the FAA’s response. I am a long term member of the AMA. I follow their guideline/rules.

  16. I hope the FAA and Union Pacific prosecute this idiot to the fullest extent of the law. I have been an avid railfan for 65 years and this has got to be the one of the stupidest stunts I have ever seen. No wonder the railroads don’t like us.

  17. Amazing video, yes, but COMPLETELY reckless, dangerous and illegal (as already well-noted). I know I’m not making points that haven’t already been made but this is maddening. THIS is what leads to RESPONSIBLE drone pilots coming under more and more scrutiny and regulation.

  18. If you disapprove of the actions of the drone operator, don’t watch the video. This is the only way you can show your disapproval.

  19. That guy is an idiot! He risked damage to the train and to his drone. He’s the kind of person who would blame the railroad and probably thinks rules don’t apply to him. He’s the kind of person who ruins it for true railfans and I hope UP takes some action against him.

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