The Phantom Eye experimental unmanned plane takes off on its second flight Feb. 25 at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. (Boeing)
Boeing flew its Phantom Eye demonstrator Feb. 25 for the first time since the experimental unmanned plane broke a wheel on its inaugural flight.
Boeing has spent the months since the June 1 accident upgrading the plane’s software and landing gear, after its nose wheel dug into a California dry lake bed and broke during landing.
This time, the demonstrator lifted off from its launch cart and landed a little over an hour later on the same dry lake bed at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., the company said in a press release.
“The upgrades paid off in the form of a picture-perfect landing,” Boeing said in a press release.
Phantom Eye is self-funded by Boeing as a contender in the Air Force’s preliminary search for a high-altitude, long-endurance drone. Boeing has billed the plane as a surveillance aircraft or an alternative to expensive communications satellites.
It’s designed to carry a 450-pound payload for up to four days at an altitude of 65,000 feet. Boeing was gentle on Phantom Eye in the latest flight, sending it to an altitude of about 8,000 feet for 66 minutes, according to the press release.
The plane is propelled by two wing-mounted engines adapted from those in Ford Ranger pickup trucks. The engines run on liquid hydrogen and oxygen, and give off water as exhaust.
Ultimately, Boeing hopes to build a larger, operational version with a wingspan of 250 feet and a 2,000-pound payload capacity.
Ben Iannotta is the editor of Deep Dive Intelligence (www.deepdiveintel.com).