Drone Use During the Amtrak Cascades Derailment and Response


On the morning of December 18, 2017, Amtrak train 501 derailed near DuPont, Washington, causing railcars and one locomotive to fall onto Interstate 5 (I-5), hitting several passenger cars and shutting down the freeway. I-5 southbound was ultimately blocked for 57 hours, an impressive accomplishment considering the necessity of surveying the incident for the investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the process of removing a 270,000 pound locomotive, and the need for inspections and repairs before the area was cleared to open. Approximately 65,000 vehicles per day had to be diverted on this southbound route and forced onto local roads and highways.

While efficient clearance time was due in large part to the pre-planning and communications efforts by the I-5/Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) Corridor Joint Operations Working Group (see case study), the use of drone technology to collect crash data significantly reduced the time needed to open up the road.

Operations Area of Practice

  • Business Processes/Policies and Procedures
  • TSMO Culture
  • Emergency Transportation Operations
  • Continuity of Operations
  • Emergency Planning
  • Recovery

Organizational Capability Element

  • Emergency Transportation Operations
  • Leadership/Championship
  • Outsourcing/PPP

Content Type

  • Case Studies & Lessons Learned

Publishing Organization

  • NOCoE


  • Available Tools
  • Justification
  • Learning

Document Downloads

Issue Date
August 27th, 2018
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