Boeing HALE  (Source: Boeing)
Ford provides propulsion for Boeing's latest UAV

Boeing is pushing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to the next level with the help of Ford Motor Company. The company today announced that its High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) UAV has successfully completed simulated testing.

The HALE uses a prototype hydrogen engine developed by Ford. According to the Boeing press release, the hydrogen engine is based on the Duratec 23 four-cylinder gasoline engine used in the Focus, Fusion and Escape. In this particular application, however, the engine not only runs on hydrogen, but also uses multi-stage turbocharging.

"This test demonstrates the technical readiness of the hydrogen engine system and confirms the capability breakthrough in flight endurance and altitude that could be realized by a variety of military and commercial customers," said Darryl Davis of Boeing's Advanced Precision Engagement and Mobility Systems.

"This test could help convince potential customers that hydrogen-powered aircraft are viable in the near-term," continued Boeing Advanced Systems President George Muellner. "This is a substantial step toward providing the persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities our customers desire."

The test simulated four days of sustained flight -- three of which were simulated at 65,000 feet. Production versions of the HALE will be designed to stay aloft for a week and can carry up to one ton of cargo.

The military is increasingly looking to unmanned vehicles – both on land and in the air – to put human soldiers out of harm’s way. This latest development from Boeing and Ford could usher in a new era of next-generation UAVs with the stamina and payload capacity to really make a difference in the skies above the battlefield.

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