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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.

UAV Education and Training Essential for Their Growth

One of the things I love most about aviation is that we have not even come close to reaching the ceiling of what we can do.  What is very interesting about aviation just over 100 years after man achieved powered flight is that we are now removing the man from the cockpit.  While we will not likely remove the pilot completely from the cockpit in my lifetime, it is fascinating to see the developments in unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.

One of the most important aspects of any developing industry is the education and training available to help the industry grow.  Like much of the rest of the aviation industry, much of the training for UAVs comes from the military, and filters to other organizations, to include the civilian sector.  Now the civilian sector is developing its own education and training, to include college degrees.

The newly formed Middle Georgia State College is developing a UAV certification program that they hope will set the stage for the college being selected as one of six UAV commercial use test sites in the US.  The college has already received two certificates of authorization to fly and test their own UAVs, and expects to receive three more this year.

The local newspaper in middle Georgia, The Telegraph, wrote an interesting article about the many uses of UAV technology that the school has already experimented with.  Many people are aware of the military, police, and border security use of UAVs, but they have also proven to be valuable assets in the agricultural industry.  They can be used to make crop dusting more efficient and effective through analyzing the crops and only applying pesticides where they are needed.

This is just one more example of the many applications of aviation that were likely never considered by the Wright Brothers over 100 years ago.  While there will continue to be opposition from pilots who don’t want to leave the cockpit, UAVs will clearly play a vital role in the future of aviation as the training and education continues to improve.

January 3, 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.