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Long-endurance, hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye UAV unveiled

By

July 13, 2010

Boeing Phantom Eye (Photo: Boeing)

Boeing Phantom Eye (Photo: Boeing)

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Unveiled earlier this week in St. Louis, Boeing's Phantom Eye will set a new benchmark in long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology when it takes to the skies in 2011. With a wing-span of 150-feet, the hydrogen-powered aircraft will cruise at 150 knots, carry up to 450-pounds and stay aloft at 65,000 feet for up to four days. Boeing calls it a game-changer, and plans are already in progress to build a bigger version that can remain airborne for 10 days.

The high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) Phantom Eye is powered by two highly-efficient, 2.3-liter, four-cylinder Ford Ranger truck engines that run on hydrogen and emit only water. Ford began working on this technology about a decade ago.

The Global Hawk UAV can fly non-stop for more than 30 hours and the solar-powered Qinetiq’s Zephyr has recorded 82 hours 37 minutes aloft. The Phantom Eye will surpass both these marks if it achieves its four day endurance goal, providing a long-term communication station above the battlefield and removing the need for having aircraft on the ground.

If the longer-term goal of ten days is reached, Boeing believes the need for global basing and supply chain of communications and surveillance aircraft can be eliminated. It's envisioned that three or four of these aircraft working together could provide 24-7 coverage of a site anywhere on the globe from a base inside the United States.

"Phantom Eye is the first of its kind and could open up a whole new market in collecting data and communications," Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Phantom Works, said today at the unveiling ceremony in St. Louis. "It is a perfect example of turning an idea into a reality. It defines our rapid prototyping efforts and will demonstrate the art-of-the-possible when it comes to persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. The capabilities inherent in Phantom Eye's design will offer game-changing opportunities for our military, civil and commercial customers."

In coming months, the Phantom Eye technology demonstrator (which was produced in just 27 months) will make its way to NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in California for ground and taxi tests before test flight get underway on early 2011. Boeing expects that the fist flight will last four to eight hours.

Boeing has developed the project in conjunction with Ford; Aurora Flight Sciences (wing); Mahle Powertrain (propulsion controls); Ball Aerospace (fuel tanks); Turbosolutions Engineering (turbochargers); the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency; and NASA.

About the Author
Noel McKeegan After a misspent youth at law school, Noel began to dabble in tech research, writing and things with wheels that go fast. This bus dropped him at the door of a freshly sprouted Gizmag.com in 2002. He has been Gizmag's Editor-in-Chief since 2007.   All articles by Noel McKeegan
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4 Comments

Using ICE's to power this isn't real bright. The weight, eff of fuelcells since you already have H2 with EV drive is a far better way and probably double time aloft. While slightly more expensive would be well worth it.

Next if the H2 is made from solar or wind power from water, it would save shipping in fuel to the battle zone.

Though using jets and jet fuel would cut costs a lot by cutting body weight, size by 80%.

jerryd
14th July, 2010 @ 01:38 pm PDT

Jerryd- me old mate.

Since you know so much how come you are not the Engineering Director of Boeing.

The New York Fire department would also like to know quicker routes around the city.

Ronnie
10th August, 2010 @ 09:16 pm PDT

@Ronnie... That was superb.

So many people on Gizmag think their short, pithy comments are so deep, when these engineering firms have done tens of thousands of hours of R&D... and one guy on Gizmag thinks he's far superior of a mental giant to think of some new aspect that they never considered....

Matt Rings
6th June, 2012 @ 12:51 pm PDT

Would it not be a bit difficult to operate a Ford truck internal combustion engine at 65,000 feet? I am ignorant of how hydrogen powered engines work and assume that it still requires oxygen for combustion, unless it is carried onboard, mixed and injected with the

Hydrogen. The record for internal combustion engines stands at a little over 50,000 feet and it can barely hold this. Appreciate it if someone can clear this up for me. Thanks

Warthog
9th February, 2013 @ 09:53 am PST
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