Hydrogen-powered unmanned aircraft completes set of tests

Boeing’s Phantom Eye high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) unmanned airborne system has completed 12 days of ground vibration and structural mode interaction tests at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center.

Phantom Eye is being prepared for its first flight, scheduled for later this summer.

According to Boeing, Phantom Eye’s two hydrogen fuel tanks were also successfully filled with nitrogen to test fuelling procedures and the aircraft’s full-fuel weight configuration.

Phantom Eye has a 150ft wingspan and is powered by two 2.3-litre, four-cylinder hydrogen engines that each provide 150hp.

It is designed to fly at 65,000ft for up to four days; perform intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions; and serve as a communications relay.

Phantom Eye evolved from Boeing’s earlier success with the piston-powered Condor that set several records for altitude and endurance in the late 1980s.

Suppliers and partners for the Phantom Eye programme include Ford Motor Company, which supplied the engines, Aurora Flight Sciences which provided the wings, plus DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and NASA.