Gilbert B Norman wrote:Considering that the Drones used by the Air Force in Afghanistan are piloted from Nellis AFB (quite unclassified) NV, the control need not be from the train itself.

Flip side though, could have a drone with existing "civilian" technology been able to detect how that switch at Kayce was aligned?

USA drone Gray Eagle costs about $21 million each. 152 planned to be built.

Crew: 0

Length: 28 ft (8.53 m)

Wingspan: 56 ft (17 m)

Height: 6.9 ft (2.1 m)

Max. takeoff weight: 3,600 lb (1,633 kg)

Powerplant: 1 × Thielert Centurion 1.7 Heavy-Fuel Engine, 165 HP

Maximum speed: 167 knots (192 mph; 309 km/h)

Endurance: 25 hours

Service ceiling: 29,000 ft (8839.2 m)

This one is fast enough for HSR trains.

USAF drone Reapers cost about $17 million each. Over 163 have been built

Crew: 0 onboard, 2 in ground station

Length: 36 ft 1 in (11 m)

Wingspan: 65 ft 7 in (20 m)

Height: 12 ft 6 in (3.81 m)

Empty weight: 4,901 lb (2,223 kg)

Max takeoff weight: 10,494 lb (4,760 kg)

Fuel capacity: 4,000 lb (1,800 kg)

Payload: 3,800 lb (1,700 kg)

Internal: 800 lb (360 kg)

External: 3,000 lb (1,400 kg)

Powerplant: 1 × Honeywell TPE331-10 turboprop, 900 hp (671 kW) with Digital Electronic Engine Control (DEEC)

Maximum speed: 300 mph; 260 kn (482 km/h)

Cruise speed: 194 mph; 169 kn (313 km/h)

Range: 1,151 mi; 1,852 km (1,000 nmi)

Endurance: 14 hours fully loaded

Service ceiling: 50,000 ft (15,000 m)

Operational altitude: 25,000 ft (7.5 km)

This one is fast enough for HSR trains.

USA and USAF drone Predator costs about $4 million each. 360 have been built.

Crew: none on-board

Length: 27 ft (8.22 m)

Wingspand: 48.7 ft (14.8 m); MQ-1B Block 10/15: 55.25 ft (16.84 m))

Height: 6.9 ft (2.1 m)

Wing area: 123.3 sq ft (11.5 m2)

Aspect ratio: 19.0

Empty weight: 1,130 lb (512 kg)

Loaded weight: 2,250 lb (1,020 kg)

Max. takeoff weight: 2,250 lb (1,020 kg)

Powerplant: 1 × Rotax 914F turbocharged four-cylinder engine, 115 hp (86 kW) (4.8 kW redundant/6.4hp)

Maximum speed: 135 mph (117 knots, 217 km/h)

Cruise speed: 81–103 mph (70–90 knots, 130–165 km/h)

Stall speed: 62 mph (54 knots, 100 km/h) dependent on aircraft weight

Range: 675 nmi (675 mi or 1,100 km)

Endurance: 24 hours

Service ceiling: 25,000 ft (7,620 m)

This one is too slow for the NEC, but is fast enough for 79 mph max speed trains everywhere else. The price is far more reasonable.

USN drone (X-47 research) costs about $400 million each. 2 have been built.

Crew: None aboard (semi-autonomous operation)

Length: 38.2 ft (11.63 m)

Wingspan: 62.1 ft extended/30.9 ft folded[63] (18.92 m/9.41 m)

Height: 10.4 ft (3.10 m)

Wing area: 953.6 ft2 (88.59 m2)

Empty weight: 14,000 lb (6,350 kg)

Max. takeoff weight: 44,567 lb (20,215 kg)

Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney F100-220U turbofan

Maximum speed: Subsonic

Cruise speed: Mach 0.9+ (high subsonic)

Range: 2,100+ NM (3,889+ km)

Service ceiling: 42,000 ft (12,800 m)

This one is just too fast and too expensive for track inspections.

How many would Amtrak need to place one of these in front of all the trains running everyday everywhere across the country? Amtrak operates more than 300 trains every day across the country. 300 x $4 million = $1.2 Billion. And that's not including the labor costs for a minimum of 900 operators Amtrak would need to run these 300 drones three 8 hour shifts every day, and more so they so they all can have weekends and holidays off.