BNSF was the first railroad granted authority by the Federal Aviation Administration to operate unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), better known as drones. From inspecting bridges and flooded tracks to mapping projects, BNSF’s UAS has grown since its initial launch in 2013 and behind the program are expert pilots like Nick Dryer.

His official title is Manager II UAS – TS for BNSF. Dryer’s job includes operating drones and managing the day-to-day UAS operations, including training other employees to be pilots. From hundreds if not thousands of feet above the ground, pilots can maneuver the aircraft where it’s harder—and riskier—for people to go.

Dryer holds a degree in aerospace engineering but got his start with BNSF in 2009 as an electrical technician at the Kansas City yard. In 2015, he became a roadmaster, responsible for the crews maintaining track on his territory from Portland, OR, to Pasco, WA. As BNSF’s UAS program evolved, Dryer’s aerospace engineering background and management experience made him a perfect fit for the program.

“I’ve got one of the greatest jobs on the railroad,” he said of the position he’s had since 2017. “Every day is different and it combines the various jobs I’ve held here.”

Learn more about Nick Dryer’s journey and BNSF’s UAS program here.