Boeing's Phantom Eye Makes First Autonomous Flight
June 5, 2012 12:30 PM
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After the Phantom Eye landed, it was slightly damaged when the landing gear hit the lakebed and broke
Boeing sent its Phantom Eye
unmanned airborne system
(UAS) on its first autonomous flight last week.
Boeing's Phantom Eye is a hydrogen-powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that is propeller-driven. The aircraft uses two 2.3 liter, four-cylinder engines capable of pushing 300 horsepower total and can loiter above a target for up to 10 days. Its main purpose is to gather information or conduct attack missions.
took off at 6:22 a.m. PST for a 28-minute flight. It reached an altitude of 4,080 feet and a speed of 62 knots. The flight took place June 1 at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
"This day ushers in a new era of persistent Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaisance (ISR) where an unmanned aircraft will remain on station for days at a time providing critical information and services," said Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Phantom Works. "This flight puts Boeing on a path to accomplish another aerospace first -- the capability of four days of unrefueled, autonomous flight."
After the Phantom Eye landed, it was slightly damaged when the landing gear hit the lakebed and broke. But overall, the flight was a success.
Previous to the June 1 flight, the Phantom Eye took part in a series of tests throughout April, such as navigation and control, pilot interface, and mission planning.
The Phantom Eye used for demonstration purposes has a 150-foot wingspan and can carry a 450-pound payload. It can fly up to 96 hours without needing to land, but Boeing is looking to make a new model in 2014 that can fly up to 240 hours without landing.
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6/5/2012 10:38:58 PM
Why would they choose hydrogen as fuel source over standard gas/diesel/avgas?
Hydrogen can be very efficiently and quickly converted into electricity using a very small fuel cell. It powers not only the main motor but the rest of the power hungry electronics.
Much more efficient than an engine (with a big alternator) or a large generator which would run an electric motor anyways.
Hydrogen is simpler, and has a higher energy density and the whole system would be lighter.
6/5/2012 11:13:40 PM
They didn't mention using a fuel cell to convert the hydrogen to electricity but are simply burning up the hydrogen in a piston engine. I could see the benefits of the fuel cell but using it in a piston engine boggled my mind.
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