First flight for hydrogen fuelled Phantom Eye

Boeing’s Phantom Eye unmanned airborne system (UAS) completed its first autonomous flight June 1 at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

The 28-minute flight began at 6:22 a.m. Pacific time as the liquid-hydrogen powered aircraft lifted off its launch cart. Phantom Eye climbed to an altitude of 4,080 feet and reached a cruising speed of 62 knots. After touching down, the vehicle sustained some damage when the landing gear dug into the lakebed and broke.

“This day ushers in a new era of persistent Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) where an unmanned aircraft will remain on station for days at a time providing critical information and services,” said Darryl Davis, president, Boeing Phantom Works. “This flight puts Boeing on a path to accomplish another aerospace first – the capability of four days of unrefueled, autonomous flight.”

Phantom Eye is the latest in a series of Boeing-funded rapid prototyping programs, which include Phantom Ray, Echo Ranger, ScanEagle Compressed Carriage, and an associated Common Open Mission Management Command and Control (COMC2) system capable of managing all of the company’s unmanned assets.

“While Phantom Eye is important for many reasons, future ISR, strike and bomber programs also will benefit from the technologies we are developing and maturing for our customers,” said Davis.

The flight took place following a series of taxi tests in April that validated ground guidance, navigation and control, mission planning, pilot interface and operational procedures.

“This flight demonstrated Phantom Eye’s initial handling and maneuverability capabilities,” said Phantom Eye Program Manager Drew Mallow. “The team is now analyzing data from the mission and preparing for our next flight. When we fly the demonstrator again, we will enter higher and more demanding envelopes of high-altitude flight.”

Phantom Eye’s innovative and environmentally responsible liquid-hydrogen propulsion system will allow the aircraft to stay on station for up to four days while providing persistent monitoring over large areas at a ceiling of up to 65,000 feet, creating only water as a byproduct. The demonstrator, with its 150-foot wingspan, is capable of carrying a 450-pound payload.

The company’s portfolio of UAS solutions includes the A160T Hummingbird, H-6U Unmanned Little Bird, S-100 Camcopter, Integrator, ScanEagle (which is currently in service in Canada, Australia, Poland, the Netherlands and Malaysia), Dominator, Phantom Eye and Phantom Ray.

A unit of The Boeing Company, Boeing Defense, Space & Security is one of the world’s largest defense, space and security businesses specializing in innovative and capabilities-driven customer solutions, and the world’s largest and most versatile manufacturer of military aircraft.


  6 comments for “First flight for hydrogen fuelled Phantom Eye

  1. Dano
    4 June 2012 at 10:44 pm

    How does it land with no wheels?

    • 5 June 2012 at 9:01 am

      Belly landing on grass I expect, no doubt they will push the flight times ultimately so there won’t be many landings.

  2. 5 June 2012 at 11:13 am

    “After touching down, the vehicle sustained some damage when the landing gear dug into the lakebed and broke.”

    I suspect that they are using light-duty landing gear that can’t handle take-off weight (fully fueled), but can, or should, be able to handle landings.

    • 5 June 2012 at 11:19 am

      Just read that it lands on a skid.

  3. 6 June 2012 at 6:28 pm

    With the recent news full of automated docking and self-driving cars, I wonder how long before launch-and-land uses those two vehicles in the picture and no landing gear is carried at all. It’d be great to see bigger, longer-term ports use a grand-scale Canadarm to do throw-catch.

  4. Nikolai Vardomskiy
    14 June 2012 at 6:16 pm

    It seems to me, better way is to use solar energy instead Hydrogen for cruising speed and only at the take-off time use any combustion accelerator. The wing span of the aircraft allows realize that idea.

Comments are closed.