Boeing’s hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye UAV made its maiden autonomous flight last Friday, staying aloft for 28 minutes after taking off from Edwards Air Force Base in California.
During the flight, Phantom Eye reached an altitude of just over 4,000 feet and a cruising speed of 68 knots before coming in for a rough landing that broke the landing gear when it dug into the lakebed.
The test flight follows a series of successful taxi tests conducted in April and brings the craft one step closer to achieving its ultimate goal – to maintain continuous flight for four days all without using a single drop of traditional fuel.
According to Boeing, the unique liquid-hydrogen propulsion system that will allow it to do that is composed of dual 2.3-liter, four cylinder engines that provide 150 horsepower apiece. The system provides not only great fuel-efficiency, but also produces just one singular byproduct: water.
In addition to staying aloft for days at a time, Boeing says the Phantom Eye – which spans a length of 150 feet and can carry a 450-pound payload – will be capable of reaching altitudes up to 65,000 feet.