Portland community group buys drone to monitor rail yard

The Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association of Portland Oregon has been locked in a dispute with Union Pacific for many years, and have purchased a drone aircraft to ensure UP upholds their end of an agreement.

As far as I know, this is the first time a community group has purchased their own drone to monitor a railroad operation….and probably not the last!

Check out the video of the drone in action.  The article and video are from the Oregonian.

By Melissa Binder | mbinder@oregonian.com 
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on June 09, 2014 at 9:01 AM

There’s a running joke in the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association that particularly vigilant members are nicknamed “flying monkeys” — as in the creatures from The Wizard of Oz — for their ability to incite fear in the hearts of opponents.

Well, keep an eye on the sky, Portland. The Southeast neighborhood actually now has a flying contraption on their team: A drone, which they have christened “Flying Monkey 1.”
The remote-controlled, 2.6-pound flying camera was purchased by neighborhood president Robert McCullough for use in Eastmoreland’s ongoing battle with Union Pacific.
Eastmoreland and Sellwood-Moreland won a legal dispute nearly 60 years ago limiting activities at the Brooklyn rail yard, a source of noise and diesel fumes in the adjoining Southeast neighborhoods.
A new generation of residents agreed in 2012 to give Union Pacific Railroad more leeway in how it runs the yard if the company purchased newer, cleaner equipment. The settlement required the railroad company to replace a number of old locomotives in the Brooklyn rail yard by the end of last year.
McCullough plans to use the drone to monitor the rail yard, he said. He has photographs showing the old locomotives on site, he said, but doesn’t have proof they’re in use.
“If we’re going to take this back to litigation we’re going to need better documentation,” he said. The neighborhood is also bankrolling an emissions monitoring station near the yard to collect pollution data.
McCullough purchased the drone for roughly $1,500 two weeks ago with his own money, he said. If the aircraft proves useful, the neighborhood association might foot the cost of a future fleet.
Flying Monkey 1 will also come in handy for checking on development projects in the neighborhood, McCullough said, such as a controversial home renovation near Duniway School that released friable asbestos into the air. (Check back for a story on that situation later this week.)
McCullough said he plans to only fly the drone over public right-of-ways to legally protect himself and the neighborhood. He wishes he didn’t feel the need to be so watchful, he said, but will remain vigilant until “the city returns to its role in environmental protection, both at the railroads and in neighborhoods.”
The neighborhood association hires an intern most summers, McCullough said, and this year one of the intern’s main jobs will be to fly the drone.
The drone will likely embark on its first mission next week, McCullough said, peering down on the renovation near Duniway School. In the meantime, the neighborhood association president is spending a few minutes on “flight practice” everyday.
“Obviously if I land it in the railroad they will not be giving it back,” he said, laughing. “Their humor would be limited.”
— Melissa Binder