Boeing’s hydrogen powered, high altitude spy drone has taken a small step toward first flight with a spin around the runway at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
Resembling the offspring of a glider mated with a zeppelin, the Phantom Eye features a 45.7m wingspan atop a pot-bellied fuselage capable of holding enough hydrogen to keep the drone airborne for as long as four days. Boeing says the Phantom Eye, which is designed for military use, will be able to reach altitudes of up to 65,000ft while carrying a 220kg payload of reconnaissance and communications equipment.
For now, Boeing is keeping its Phantom Eye on the ground, with the drone reaching a speed of 30kt atop its launching cart system during a two minute taxi test in California on March 10. Boeing said further ground tests will follow ahead of first flight, but did not say when it expects to put the Phantom Eye in the air. At the drone’s unveiling in July 2010, the company said it planned to begin flight testing in early 2011.
Boeing released the following video documenting the taxi test: