June 04, 2012
Boeing plans to open up the performance envelope of the Phantom Eye UAV following a successful first flight of the hydrogen-powered demonstrator at Edwards AFB, Calif., on June 1.
The 150-ft.-span vehicle completed a 28-min. flight after lifting off at 6.22 a.m. PDT from the desert base using a specially designed launch cart. The aircraft climbed to 4,080 ft. and a speed of 62 kt. Boeing says that after returning to land, the vehicle “sustained some damage when the landing gear dug into the lakebed and broke.”
The initial flight follows an extended series of ground runs that culminated with a high-speed taxi test at Edwards on April 21. Phantom Eye is powered by a pair of Ford truck engines modified to run on liquid hydrogen and triple-turbocharged to operate at high altitude. The UAV is designed to stay aloft at 65,000 ft. for four days, as a precursor to a 10-day endurance aircraft.
Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Phantom Works, says: “This flight puts Boeing on a path to accomplish another aerospace first — the capability of four days of unrefueled, autonomous flight.”
As part of a series of company-funded rapid prototyping programs — including Phantom Ray, Echo Ranger and ScanEagle Compressed Carriage — Phantom Eye will benefit “future [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance], strike and bomber programs,” Davis adds.