The Boeing Phantom Eye completed its first flight June 1, 2012 at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
The 28-minute flight of the liquid-hydrogen powered unmanned craft at 4,080 feet is merely a fraction of what the Phantom Eye is advertised at. When ready,t he 150-foot aircraft will cruise for more than four days at a time at around 65,000 feet providing an unprecedented level of intelligence and surveillance.
“This flight demonstrated Phantom Eye’s initial handling and maneuverability capabilities,” said Phantom Eye Program Manager Drew Mallow, in a statement. “The team is now analyzing data from the mission and preparing for our next flight. When we fly the demonstrator again, we will enter higher and more demanding envelopes of high-altitude flight.”
The Phantom Eye has no armament and has been built for “persistent intelligence and surveillance” rather than combat. But the program is expected to have design and function applications for future aircraft, including bombers, according to the company. It is also part of a movement toward “greener” aircraft, as its only byproduct is water.
“While Phantom Eye is important for many reasons, future ISR, strike and bomber programs also will benefit from the technologies we are developing and maturing for our customers,” said Darryl Davis, president of Boeing’s Phantom Works division.
During the test flight, the Phantom Eye cruised at about 62 knots. It was slightly damaged after landing, when the landing gear dug into the lakebed and broke.
The two propellers are powered by modified, turbocharged Ford 2.3 liter engines with a reduction gearbox.
The Phantom Eye is part of a new family of unmanned aerial vehicles called high altitude, long endurance (HALE). Boeing is also working on a 10-hour HALE called the Phantom Ray, developed from the X-45.