Yesterday, Andrew Mallow, Boeing Phantom Work’s program manager for the Phantom Eye hydrogen-powered high altitude demonstrator and Brad Shaw, the project’s chief engineer, held a press conference about their aircraft’s recent second flight. While the second flight of a company-funded test vehicle isn’t normally particularly noteworthy, in the case of the Phantom Eye, this was the aircraft’s first successful landing. The unmanned aircraft had crash landed onto a dry lakebed at Edwards AFB, California, earlier on its first flight.
Here is a video of the event.
Mallow says that this time around, everything “worked perfectly” with the aircraft achieving 62 knots and 8000ft during the flight. The successful second flight is due to the efforts of Boeing engineers at Saint Louis, Missouri, who redesigned the aircraft’s nose-gear and added other improvements. Many of those improvements are in the plane’s software.
Mallow says he had hoped to fly the Phantom Eye again during the weekend, but the weather wasn’t looking good. The USAF is clearing some time and range space for the project on Monday, but Mallow doesn’t yet have a good idea of what the parameters are going to be for that flight.
The goal for the Phantom Eye is to eventually fly at 65,000ft and push the aircraft’s endurance to four days–that’s with a payload of 450lbs (but it’s not carrying a “specific payload”). An operational version, which would be larger, could potentially fly for up to 10 days, Mallow says.
Mallow says there are interested “customer agencies” and international interest, but nothing concrete at the moment. In recent months, a number of persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms–which were in vogue at the height of the Iran and Afghan wars–have been cancelled. In an era of declining budgets, other than as a one off science project, there are no clear indications as to what the future holds for Phantom Eye.
This Boeing briefing tells you everything you could possibly want to know about Phantom Eye.