The Boeing Phantom Eye is a large liquid hydrogen powered spy drone that took flight recently in California taking off and landing at Edwards Air Force Base near Bakersfield. The Phantom Eye has a wingspan larger than a 757 jetliner and can stay aloft for 4 days before refueling.
The unmanned aerial vehicle is capable of flying up to 65,000 feet in the air. The Phantom Eye on its recent test flight through the Mojave Desert sustained minor damage when its landing gear dug into the ground at the end of the flight.
According to ABC News, “Most surveillance drones currently in use in the ongoing U.S. drone war against al Qaeda and the Taliban can stay in the air for a maximum of 40 hours without refueling. The Phantom Eye’s unique liquid hydrogen propulsion system is meant to keep the spy plane aloft for up to four days at altitudes of 65,000 feet.
“The Phantom Eye has two 150-horsepower engines, can carry 450 pounds of surveillance gear, and has a wingspan of 150 feet, 25 feet more than the Boeing 757.”
I had last talked about the Phantom Eye high-altitude long endurance (HALE) vehicle in November 2011. The Boeing spy drone was just about to take its maiden voyage. I have also talked about a handful of other hydrogen-powered UAVs over the past couple of years.
What makes the Phantom Eye so special though is that it is a huge aircraft that can fly high, for relatively long times, is silent and is very clean in that hydrogen is used for fuel. Hydrogen-powered passenger jetliners may not be in the air any time soon, but other aircraft powered by clean and green H2 are already flying our friendly skies. And that step into the future is quite a present to us all.