Boeing Phantom Ray unmanned aircraft begins flight testing
Boeing has successfully kicked-off its test flight program for the Phantom Ray unmanned airborne system (UAS). The fighter-sized technology demonstrator reached an altitude of 7,500 feet and a speed of 178 knots in its first flight on April 27 in the skies above NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California. A second successful test flight followed on May 5.
In its maiden flight, the 50-foot wingspan unmanned aircraft flew for 17-minutes before nailing a pinpoint landing. The test demonstrated Phantom Ray's basic airworthiness as well as showcasing the effectiveness of the company's "rapid prototyping" program, which saw the milestone reached after an incubation period of just two and a half years.
"The first flight moves us farther into the next phase of unmanned aircraft," said Craig Brown, Phantom Ray program manager for Boeing. "Autonomous, fighter-sized unmanned aircraft are real, and the UAS bar has been raised. Now I'm eager to see how high that bar will go."
The second outing on May 5 mirrored the first and further test flights are planned with a view to expanding the aircraft's flight envelope and researching different payload capabilities and multiple mission scenarios, which range from intelligence gathering and surveillance to electronic attack and autonomous air refueling.