After four years of development, Boeing’s liquid hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye unmanned autonomous aircraft made its first flight last Friday. It took place at Edwards Air Force Base in California, with the dual-propeller-driven aircraft lifting off of its launch cart at 6:22am PST.
In the course of the ensuing 28-minute flight, Phantom Eye climbed to an altitude of 4,080 feet (1,244 meters) and reached a speed of 62 knots. The Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft is actually designed to go as high as 65,000 feet (19,812 meters), carrying a maximum payload of 450 pounds (204 kg), staying aloft for up to four days at a time.
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According to Boeing personnel, the flight marked a successful demonstration of Phantom Eye’s fuel, propulsion, guidance and navigation systems, among others. The ending was a bit of an anticlimax, as the landing gear stuck in the dry lake bed that the aircraft was landing on, and broke.
Data from the flight is now being analyzed, with a higher-altitude, more demanding second flight already being planned.
More details are available in the video below.