The Phantom Eye high-altitude, long-endurance aircraft arrived in crates at Dryden March 25. Plans call for it to fly later this year. (Concept illustration courtesy The Boeing Company)
› View Larger Image The Boeing Co.'s unmanned hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye high-altitude, long-endurance demonstrator aircraft has arrived at Dryden for assembly and flight-test preparations.
Dryden is hosting the Boeing flight-test operation, providing hangar facilities, engineering, ground test and test range support. The aircraft is expected to fly sometime this year.
Flight tests of the Phantom Eye, like those of Boeing's smaller Phantom Ray unmanned air vehicle that arrived at Dryden late last year, will be conducted under a Boeing-funded commercial Space Act agreement with NASA. The aircraft, in several crates, arrived at Dryden March 25 after being trucked from the company's Phantom Works facilities in St. Louis.
Developed by Boeing, the Phantom Eye is a propeller-driven lightweight aircraft with a high-aspect-ratio, 150-foot-long wing. The fuel efficiency of the hydrogen-fueled propulsion system, coupled with use of winds to stay on station, is expected to enable the aircraft to stay aloft for up to four days while carrying a 450-pound payload. Two modified Ford automotive engines provide power.
The Phantom Eye technology demonstrator is the forerunner of a planned larger version of the craft that is being designed to remain aloft for up to 10 days. The larger version could carry payloads weighing more than 2,000 pounds for persistent intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and communications missions.
Phantom Eye is an updated version of Boeing's Condor aircraft, which set several records for altitude and endurance in the late 1980s.