Boeing’s liquid-hydrogen powered Phantom Eye spy plane has completed its first autonomous flight.
The plane flew for 28 minutes and reached an altitude of 4,080 feet at a cruising speed of 62 knots during the June 1 flight at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California, the company announced this morning.
It wasn’t without incident: The landing gear dug into the lakebed and broke after the plane landed. The plane is designed to stay aloft for up to four days, at altitudes of up to 65,000 feet, providing “persistent monitoring over large areas.” Boeing describes the liquid-hydrogen propulsion system as environmentally responsible, with the only byproduct being water.
“This day ushers in a new era of persistent Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) where an unmanned aircraft will remain on station for days at a time providing critical information and services,” said Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Phantom Works, in the news release announcing the milestone. “This flight puts Boeing on a path to accomplish another aerospace first — the capability of four days of unrefueled, autonomous flight.”
The demonstration plane has a 150-foot wingspan and can carry a payload as heavy as 450 pounds.
Image Credits: Boeing