Boeing Unveils Hydrogen-Powered Unmanned Phantom Eye Aircraft

July 13, 2010

The Boeing Company today unveiled the hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye unmanned airborne system, a demonstrator that will stay aloft at 65,000 feet for up to four days.

"Phantom Eye is the first of its kind and could open up a whole new market in collecting data and communications," Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Phantom Works, said today at the unveiling ceremony in St. Louis. "It is a perfect example of turning an idea into a reality. It defines our rapid prototyping efforts and will demonstrate the art-of-the-possible when it comes to persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. The capabilities inherent in Phantom Eye's design will offer game-changing opportunities for our military, civil and commercial customers."

Later this summer, Phantom Eye will be shipped to NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., to begin a series of ground and taxi tests in preparation for its first flight in early 2011. That debut flight is expected to last between four and eight hours.

"The program is moving quickly, and it’s exciting to be part of such a unique aircraft," said Drew Mallow, Phantom Eye program manager for . "The propulsion system will be the key to Phantom Eye's success. It is very efficient and offers great fuel economy, and its only byproduct is water, so it's also a 'green' aircraft."

Phantom Eye is powered by two 2.3-liter, four-cylinder engines that provide 150 horsepower each. It has a 150-foot wingspan, will cruise at approximately 150 knots and can carry up to a 450-pound payload.

Key Phantom Eye suppliers and partners include Ford Motor Company (engines); Aurora Flight Sciences (wing); Mahle Powertrain (propulsion controls); Ball Aerospace (fuel tanks); Turbosolutions Engineering (turbochargers); the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency; and NASA.

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not rated yet Jul 13, 2010
When they say "hydrogen-powered", I immediately think "fuel cells". Then I read on to see "two 2.3-liter, four-cylinder engines". WTF? Why hydrogen, then? Wouldn't they have gotten better mileage out of jet fuel?
3 / 5 (2) Jul 13, 2010
When they say "hydrogen-powered", I immediately think "fuel cells". Then I read on to see "two 2.3-liter, four-cylinder engines". WTF? Why hydrogen, then? Wouldn't they have gotten better mileage out of jet fuel?

Probably quite right but you neglect the ability to then call it "green" and the kudos - and presumably sales - derived thereby. (They conveniently ignore the energy requirements to make the hydrogen gas in the first place.)

Or am I being too cynical?
not rated yet Jul 13, 2010
If it were fuel cells, they could add solar panels and run it off the sun during daylight hours.
not rated yet Jul 13, 2010
You can run a Internal combustion engine straight off of an H2 tank. You just need a better lubrication system to compensate for the water that is produced.
not rated yet Jul 14, 2010
The part I like about this is using a Ford Ranger engine in a Boeing reconnaissance craft. I love the idea of using existing parts and components from other industries to create new products cheaper and faster than designing new ones.
not rated yet Jul 19, 2010
"...could open up a whole new market in collecting data and communications."

Apart from being powered by hydrogen, what's the big deal? A measly 450 pound payload isn't that promising for new capabilities. I hope the true nature of this plane is just classified

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