Hydrogen test for spy plane

Boeing has successfully tested the hydrogen propulsion system of its High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) unmanned spy aircraft using an engine developed by Ford.

During the test, the engine ran for nearly four days in a control chamber at Aurora Flight Sciences in Manassas, Virginia, and for three days in simulated conditions at 65,000ft.

The propulsion system included a multi-stage turbo-charged internal combustion engine and associated subsystems.

Boeing said Ford’s engine earned better than expected fuel economy, while demonstrating complete airflow and torque control across its operating range.

‘This simulated flight allows us to showcase the capabilities of Ford’s proprietary hydrogen engine technology and the durability of our four-cylinder engines,’ said Gerhard Schmidt, vice-president, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering. George Muellner, Boeing Advanced Systems president, added: ‘This test could help convince potential customers that hydrogen-powered aircraft are viable in the near term. This is a substantial step towards providing the persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities our customers desire.’

The Boeing HALE aircraft, which can carry payloads of up to 910kg, is designed to maintain a persistent presence over ground locations from stratospheric altitudes in seven-day sorties. It promises battlefield intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, border observation, port security and telecommunications. Production versions of the aircraft will be propeller-driven, lightweight and have a high-aspect ratio wing.

Test: the HALE unmanned spy aircraft