I covered the Boeing Phantom Eye long-endurance UAV back in March when it began taxi tests. Now the Phantom Eye has made it’s first flight, at Edwards Air Force Base in California, in a successful start to the flight test program. The Phantom Eye is a hydrogen-fueled UAV designed to operate at high altitude, up to 65,000 feet, for days on end. The demonstrator being tested is designed to remain aloft for up to four days, while the larger planned production model would have a ten day endurance. Fueled by hydrogen the Phantom Eye’s engines produce only water as a combustion byproduct, making it a very green aircraft. Here’s the first flight:
With that endurance at high altitude the Phantom Eye can provide persistent surveillance of an area – for disaster recovery, military operations, environmental monitoring, etc. It can also operate as a communications relay, a pseudolite or virtual cell tower to provide communications in an area where it is otherwise lacking. For example, it could handle cell phone communications in a disaster area where the cell phone towers have been knocked out, until normal coverage can be restored. With a payload of 2,000 pounds the production model will be a versatile craft.