The Phantom Eye is a long-endurance unmanned vehicle designed to stay airborne for up to four days powered by clean-burning hydrogen, which leaves only water in the atmosphere. (Boeing photo)
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Boeing is researching and developing new aircraft designs and propulsion systems that may be the next step in the evolution of aerospace and a big leap forward in sustainable technology.
In 2012 Boeing reached important milestones in testing two prototype aircraft designs that hold the promise of substantially cleaner, quieter and more efficient flight.
The hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye completed its third flight in April 2013 and successfully demonstrated a cleaner burning propulsion system that leaves only water in the atmosphere.
During the flight, Phantom Eye climbed to 10,000 feet (3,050 meters) and remained aloft for two hours and 15 minutes -- a significant increase from its second flight in February when the aircraft reached 8,000 feet (2,400 meters) during a 67-minute flight.
Engineers expect test flights to continue in 2013 as the Phantom Eye moves toward the goal of reaching its target altitude of 65,000 feet.
The Phantom Eye is a long-endurance unmanned vehicle designed to stay airborne for up to four days at altitudes of up to 65,000 feet, powered by two, four-cylinder hydrogen engines. The Phantom Eye’s first flight test was in June 2012.
Hydrogen has three times the energy content per pound of conventional fuels, which means more performance out of less fuel. Technology demonstration projects such as the Phantom Eye will help Boeing expand its knowledge of hydrogen’s potential for other applications and aircraft.
The Boeing X-48C research aircraft completed its 30th flight in early 2013, successfully wrapping up a nearly year-long test program that further explored and validated the aerodynamic characteristics of the blended wing body design concept.
The blended wing body is a departure from the conventional tube-and-wing airplane design in favor of a triangular aircraft that effectively merges the vehicle’s wing and body. The blended body helps to generate additional lift with less drag compared to a circular fuselage.
Boeing and its research partners NASA and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory are testing to determine if the blended wing body concept offers the potential of significantly greater fuel efficiency and reduced noise. The X-48C is a scale model of an aircraft with a 240-foot wingspan that possibly could be developed in the next 15 to 20 years for military applications such as aerial refueling and cargo missions.