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Phantom Ray arrives in Dryden ahead of flight tests

The Boeing Phantom Ray has arrived at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center in California to prepare for a series of 10 planned flight tests.

The flying-wing unmanned aircraft system, based heavily on the cancelled X-45C, allows Boeing to attempt to keep pace with key rivals, including the Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel deployed by the US Air Force and the Northrop Grumman X-47 carrier operations demonstrator for the US Navy.

Boeing is staging flight tests of the 15.2m (50ft)-wingspan Phantom Ray with no orders and no immediate requirement for its capabilities.

The Phantom Ray will also allow Boeing to experiment further with a tail-less unmanned aircraft, which is a configuration the company pioneered with the now-declassified Bird of Prey programme in the 1990s.

Boeing officials also have talked about plans to test advanced UAS ground control technologies during the Phantom Ray tests. Although only one vehicle will be airborne, the programme offers opportunities to control concepts that allow a single person to control multiple vehicles.

Boeing has ruled out Phantom Ray flight tests that include weapons and sensors.

© Boeing

The Phantom Ray was ferried to Dryden riding on top of the fuselage of the NASA-owned shuttle carrier aircraft, a Boeing 747 modified to externally carry the 16,500kg (36,500lb) UAS from St Louis, Missouri. The transfer was performed following an initial check flight performed at the site on 13 December.

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