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Frontiers April 2013 Issue

the causes before making any changes. “Our first few weeks were spent collecting information about the airframe and the landing gear. We collected all the necessary data to begin the redesign effort,” Knoble explained. The results of the analysis led to the design and installation of BOEING FRONTIERS / APRIL 2013 19 a stronger landing gear. “The team essentially redesigned, tested and had the landing gear manufactured in the amount of time it normally takes to do one of those phases,” Nowakowski said. Their work paid off, as Phantom Eye returned to flight Feb. 25. During the flight, at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, the aircraft climbed above an altitude of 8,000 feet (2,400 meters) and remained aloft for 66 minutes at a cruising speed of 62 knots (71 mph, or 115 kilometers per hour) before landing. “There are many unknowns in a fast-moving program like Phantom Eye,” Nowakowski said. “As engineers, we know there’s always something that could be out there that we’ve missed. Once we knew the landing gear successfully deployed, that was a big relief, and we were even more relieved when we heard the aircraft landed without issue.” Added Knoble: “There’s a real feeling of satisfaction knowing you’ve done things right.” Richardson of Boeing Research & Technology stressed how harnessing the talents of the One Boeing workforce was integral to the successful return to flight. “The biggest thing is never be afraid to ask questions outside your immediate circle,” Richardson said. “If you don’t know something, in just a matter of seconds you can find the right person to go to. There are abundant resources for problem-solving across the company.” Phantom Eye represents a major push for the company in the long-endurance UAV market. The aircraft is designed to perform battlefield and border observation, port security and telecommunications at high altitudes for up to four days. Besides military applications, Phantom Eye could be used to meet a variety of commercial and civil requirements, according to program officials. It could help scientists track weather patterns and predict where hurricanes or tornadoes might hit. It could also be used to monitor disaster areas and relay critical data to ground crews who can then prioritize and dispatch resources quickly and efficiently. With a 150-foot (46-meter) wingspan, Phantom Eye is designed to eventually cruise at altitudes up to 65,000 feet (19,800 meters). Its hydrogen-powered propulsion system is what sets Phantom Eye apart. It consists of nothing more than two Ford Ranger truck engines converted to burn liquid hydrogen, which has more energy content than aviation fuel and burns more cleanly. The result is an aircraft that produces only water as a byproduct, leading to PHOTOS: (Clockwise from bottom left) Phantom Eye takes off from its launch cart, which has been redesigned to reduce drag and increase speed; soaring at an altitude of 8,000 feet (2,400 meters); the unmanned aerial vehicle glides in for a smooth landing on the California lakebed; after landing and coming to a stop on the runway, Phantom Eye leans on its wing for balance; Phantom Eye’s landing skid provides support.


Frontiers April 2013 Issue
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