Aircraft

Boeing’s hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye goes higher for longer on second flight

Boeing’s hydrogen-powered Phan...
Boeing's liquid hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye unmanned airborne system on its second flight (Photo: Boeing photo)
Boeing's liquid hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye unmanned airborne system on its second flight (Photo: Boeing photo)
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Boeing's liquid hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye unmanned airborne system on its second flight (Photo: Boeing photo)
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Boeing's liquid hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye unmanned airborne system on its second flight (Photo: Boeing photo)
Boeing’s liquid hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye unmanned airborne system is launched from its launch cart (Photo: Boeing photo)
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Boeing’s liquid hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye unmanned airborne system is launched from its launch cart (Photo: Boeing photo)

Earlier this week, Boeing’s liquid hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye demonstrator successfully completed its second flight. While still well short of the four day flight time and 65,000 foot altitude Boeing says the aircraft is capable of, the second flight is a step in the right direction from the Phantom Eye's first flight that ended – not quite as successfully – on June 1, 2012.

Like the first, the Phantom Eye’s second flight took place at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California. It was conducted on Feb. 25 and saw the unmanned autonomous aircraft climb to an altitude of over 8,000 feet and remain in the air for 66 minutes traveling at a cruising speed of 62 knots. This improved upon the first flight, on which the aircraft stayed aloft for 28 minutes and reached an altitude of 4,080 feet.

Boeing’s liquid hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye unmanned airborne system is launched from its launch cart (Photo: Boeing photo)
Boeing’s liquid hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye unmanned airborne system is launched from its launch cart (Photo: Boeing photo)

The first flight ended with the Phantom Eye’s landing gear digging into the Edwards Air Force Base lakebed and breaking. The landing system, along with its autonomous flight systems and engine oil pumps, were subsequently upgraded, resulting in what Boeing called a “picture-perfect landing” after its second flight.

"This flight, in a more demanding high-altitude flight envelope, successfully demonstrated Phantom Eye's maneuverability, endurance and landing capabilities," said Drew Mallow, Phantom Eye program manager.

Source: Boeing

5 comments
Slowburn
I really don't see the advantage of using hydrogen as the fuel. Granted it is light for its energy but it is bulky and super-cryogenic (high pressure tanks would negate light) high density liquid hydrocarbons can be stored in wing tanks removing the bulbous fuselage tank and reducing the wings structural requirements because the weight is distributed.
PrometheusGoneWild.com
Four days of flight? Add some solar panels, electric motors at the props (yes, I know there is an efficiency loss) and use a fuel cell and you have a long flight time hybrid. Solar powered aircraft have been in flight for TWO WEEKS:
see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QinetiQ_Zephyr
So one has to wonder what the point of this aircraft is. Hydrogen? Whats wrong with JP5? To available and easy to use? And the landing gear.... Could they make it any more complicated? And stupid? This whole project seems like a political porkfest....
j-stroy
Perhaps condense the water vapour in the exhaust using the ambient low temperature and split it into hydrogen again with an energy source.
Oztechi
@PrometheusGoneWild.com - The difference between the Boeing Phantom Eye and the QinetiQ Zephyr is that the Boeing can carry a decent payload and the other aircraft can only cary extremely light payloads.
Also the hydrogen fuel type does not produce harmful exhaust gasses like other fuel sources, so it is greener.
Slowburn
re; PrometheusGoneWild.com
Solar powered aircraft do not have the payload capability.