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Towed onto the dry lakebed of Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., before day break, the morning sun rose to welcome Boeing’s Phantom Eye. At 6:22 a.m. Pacific time the unmanned aircraft lifted off its launch cart and climbed to an altitude of 4,080 feet into the desert sky.
The autonomous aircraft, with its 150-foot wingspan and powered by energy efficient liquid hydrogen, completed its first take off and landing June 1. After touching down, the vehicle sustained some damage when the landing gear dug into the lakebed and broke.
“This day ushers in a new era of persistent Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) where an unmanned aircraft will remain on station for days at a time providing critical information and services,” said Darryl Davis, president, Boeing Phantom Works. “This flight puts Boeing on a path to accomplish another aerospace first -- the capability of four days of unrefueled, autonomous flight.”
Phantom Eye brings a new level of high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) to the aviation world. It’s efficient and environmentally responsible liquid-hydrogen propulsion system is a first of its kind, creating only water as a byproduct of its engines. The aircraft can also carry a 450 pound payload.
“This flight demonstrated Phantom Eye’s initial handling and maneuverability capabilities,” said Drew Mallow, Phantom Eye program manager for Boeing. “The team is now analyzing the data from the mission and preparing for our next flight. When we fly the demonstrator again, we will proceed to enter higher and more demanding envelopes of high-altitude flight,”
Phantom Eye is the latest in a series of Boeing-funded rapid prototyping programs, which include Phantom Ray, Echo Ranger, ScanEagle Compressed Carriage, and an associated Common Open Mission Management Command and Control (COMC2) system capable of managing all of the company’s unmanned assets.
To view a photo gallery of the Phantom Eye first flight, click here.