In cinema and literature, the “railroad dick” character has always evoked images of a club-wielding, cigar-chomping sentry hell-bent on protecting cargo and ousting hobos. In reality, modern railway security has dropped its rough edges, trading clubs for an HD camera and airborne rotors in place of brawn.
In fact, one of Poland’s largest freight rail carriers has deployed drones to deter cargo theft. PKP Cargo began testing its drone security force in one of the nation’s most theft-heavy provinces, resulting in a 60 percent drop in stolen goods.
By quietly flying and recording around areas where thieves – especially coal thieves – tend to strike, drones provide high-res evidence enabling police to quickly identify bandits, which in turn deters would-be miscreants.
“The use of drones certainly has had a substantial effect on such good result and it is worth remembering that it was only the period of testing the devices,” Maciej Borecki, PKP Head of Security said.
“The drones are practically inaudible in the air — moreover, they are difficult to spot due to small size and color. It definitely makes them more effective,” he added. “The machines can be used also at night and during bad weather conditions as they are equipped with high quality thermal vision cameras enabling human detection from more than one kilometer.”
The drones mainly patrol the Silesia region – a high-traffic area responsible for 60 percent of PKP’s domestic traffic and 70 percent of exports. Also, nearly three-fourths of all coal thefts happen within the territory. Overall, coal thefts have declined by 36 percent thanks to the drone patrols while stolen scrap metal pilfering dropped by 62 percent.
Typically, a gang of bandits will place an obstacle across the tracks, forcing the crew to stop. “In order to avoid the disaster, train drivers are forced to stop the train and inform competent services about the event,” PKP spokesperson Mirosław Kuk said. “In a matter of minutes, thieves manage to siphon off coal. During a single incident they are able to steal as much as several tons of coal.” Having drones scout ahead for trouble puts thieves on notice.
“Drones will surely find many other applications – we will use them, for example, to check whether the wagons returned by our customers were emptied properly. This will significantly shorten the time of such inspections, necessary for smooth work,” Borecki said.
Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.
Beginning his career as a journalist in 1996, Jason has since written and edited thousands of engaging news articles, blog posts, press releases and online content.
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