A recent article in the latest edition of the Perham Focus of Perham, Minnesota, talks about what the city of about 3000 people would do if a train derails in the city, which gets 60-65 BNSF trains per day going through it, with 5-6 of them carrying oil from North Dakota’s Baakan region. Most of these trains end up going through the even greater populated Minneapolis/St Paul metro area, though at slower speeds and there are worries about a derailment through these areas.
Just like the farmer co-op model, disaster recovery with UAVs as part of cities and towns disaster recovery plans with trained operators and staged equipment, possibly supplied and trained and maintained by the railroads will be good tools to maximizes the damage assessment time and the response times for the first responders. Currently they are not legal to fly and recent requests for post-Hurricane Sandy were denied, but that is no reason why they should not be approved and used by properly trained personnel in the near future (late 2015 into 2016 and beyond).
To properly maximize disaster recovery, railroad corridor flights should be done with color, color-IR imagery, or LiDAR data, as there are growing diverse sensors for UAV deployment in traditional aerial survey workflows.