I still don't know what I think of drones. On one level, we will always be progressing in technology, and I sure would hate to look back and see myself as the "old guy" who resisted computers, or the diesel locomotive, or.....the airplane.
I think drones CAN work in the NAS, provided they stay small, physically and operationally. But they won't do that.
I don't think we will get to a point where airliners are piloted remotely. Sure, a computer doesn't make dumb mistakes or decisions, but it also is "stupid" in that it does exactly what it's programmed to do. Nothing more, nothing less. One glitch, and hundreds of people die. You can't beat a human for the ability to analyze and act in a situation.
However, I see your point about GA pilots becoming anachronistic. THAT is very scary. As it is, we're already faced with an FAA who, as my instructor would say, "would like nothing better than for all the little airplanes to go away."
And FlyFan, I agree there as well. Drones fit eerily well into the current statist mentality. Just think about it: private aviators are "too uncontrolled". Frankly, if you can go fast enough, there is just about nothing you can't do when up there, if you're willing to face the consequences when you come down....or don't intend to come down (think terrorists).
(The modern attitude of "never again" which can be admirable at times, is also an enemy to liberty.)
Finally, I do not see us winning the battle for GA on our own. 600,000 people don't beat a nation of 275 million united with an overgrown government. We need to rekindle a fascination with flight in the minds of the general populace.
Ever played a flight simulator, such as Microsoft Flight Simulator, and gone through its "lessons?" On the eighth lesson or so, they introduce ILS approaches. Mucking around with ILS with kids who have never sat in an airplane seems like introducing a 1st grader to Shakespeare. They do it for one reason. Flying a normal pattern in a PC flight simulator is nearly impossible, because your views are so limited. Does the drone 747 pilot have a better field of view? If so, the hardware fo that would probably be expensive enough that they might as well just put him back on the plane. And a 747 without a pilot? Can a computer do a captain Sullenberger successfully? If with a drone pilot, what about the remote connection? If it is ony as reliable as an internet connection, heaven help the passengers. Pilots, how well can you fly if your instruments consisted of a screen that said something like "HTTP 404 aircraft not found" like your browser says when your connection is lost? Drones for surveillance work? Ok. Drones for traffic tickets? No, because it only makes everyone hate the police officers and does nothing to improve highway safety. This is based on results of use of automated traffic cams, which generate nothing but hatred. Drones for passengers? Not with my life. Drones for cargo? Not to carry aything I paid more than 3 figures for.
People used to say passengers would not travel on trains without drivers.
Not so -- the London Docklands has been going for around 20 years now with driverless trains in a complicated urban setting with no problems and millions of happy passengers, while the Paris Metro's famous line 14, again without drivers, is the most reliable line in the network.
For aircraft, most of the recent disasters have been down to pilots -- yanking back on control sticks in the Air France tragedy and the Buffalo one too.
So if pilotless aircraft are offered to the commercial flying public to get from A to B at prices they have become used to, I think they will be accepted very easily.
The question in the next couple of years will be whether or not today's pilots will be willing to risk what remains of their careers by going on a united, multi-national strike to stop the passenger drone proposals, which are surely coming, before they get off the ground.
I see your point but it is very different. The weather and visibility don't affect a subway system. People are afraid to fly because they "could crash."
The psychological assumption of a crash in a surface vehicle is that you will get "hurt" while a crash in an airplane is assumpled to be fatal.
I am not completely knowledgeable about the visual abilities of drones....moreover if they can look 90 degrees left and right and/or look behind them. Personally, when i am told of traffic in an immediate vicinity my adrenaline starts moving and i am on high alert looking everywhere because a collision would most likely be fatal.........The psyche can't be the same for a drone pilot sitting at a computer terminal who knows where. Sadly, they will probably get airborne and like every other FAR and an accident will happen with a drone and a passenger aircraft and another regulation will be written in blood.