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Boeing Phantom Eye Promoted to Experimental Status by US Air Force

The Phantom Eye could change the future of ISR forever.

The Phantom Eye could change the future of ISR forever.

I’m sure I sound like a broken record with how much I talk about Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) being one of the most exciting and interesting topics of discussion in aviation, but they are.  Right now the focus is really on their value as an ISR asset, and I think that is largely where the focus will stay for quite a while.  One of the most intriguing stories is the development of the Boeing Phantom Eye.

I have written about the Phantom Eye in the past and all of the incredible goals they have set.  It is a high altitude long endurance (HALE) airframe that is designed to cruise at 60,000 feet for anywhere from 7 to 10 days at a time.  Yes you read that right, over a week which is made possible by the liquid-hydrogen powered engines.

The platform has only performed six flight tests, but was just promoted from unproven to experimental status by the US Air Force 412th Operations Group.  That upgrade was based on the recommendation of NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center.

This promotion allows the Phantom Eye development team to expand testing by flying to a nearby test range instead of strictly flying in the protected airspace over Edwards Air Force Base.  The team will now be able to really push the altitude and endurance limits that they are shooting for.

Military use is often the first thing people think of when they talk about UAVs, but there are so many other uses for a platform like this.  What other uses can you think of for the Phantom Eye, or other similar platforms?  Please share in the comments below.

February 12, 2014 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Boeing Moves Forward with the Phantom Eye Hydrogen Powered UAV

Two of the biggest topics of discussion in the aviation industry in recent years have been Unmanned Aerial Vehicles(UAVs) and alternative fuels.  Hidden in the Boeing 787 news last week is another story from Boeing that will play a role in both of those topics.

The Boeing Phantom Eye is a liquid hydrogen-powered high altitude long endurance unmanned aircraft system that could have a tremendous impact on the future of aviation.  As you can see in the video below, it looks pretty cool too.

I have written about UAVs before, and become increasingly interested in them the more that I learn about projects like this.  The Phantom Eye is designed to fly at altitudes of up to 65,000 feet, and stay airborne for as long as four days.  You want to talk about options?  Having an airframe that could stay airborne for four days at incredibly high altitudes gives all kinds of options when it comes to military applications, or even civilians when it comes to disaster relief and other situations where having an “eye in the sky” would prove useful.

One of the biggest pieces of news in this story is the use of liquid hydrogen as fuel instead of traditional fossil fuels.  I don’t necessarily think that liquid hydrogen is the answer to our long-term fuel issues, but the fact that companies are actively pursuing other fuels gives me hope for the future.  We don’t need one fuel to replace fossil fuels, but if we can come up with new technologies to ease the burden in certain parts of the industry then we are moving in the right direction.

Last week the Phantom Eye performed taxi tests in preparation for its second flight later this year.  Improvements had been made since its first flight on June 1, 2012.  One of the most notable improvements was to the landing gear.  Learning from the landing gear on the F/A-18 Hornet they were able to make this landing gear more durable after the first attempt resulted in the gear collapsing on landing.

February 11, 2013 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.