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Boeing Phantom Eye

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Boeing unveils Phantom Eye

By Gayle Putrich

Boeing's Phantom Works offered a first glimpse of Phantom Eye, the hydrogen-powered unmanned demonstrator built to stay aloft at 65,000ft for up to four days at a time, 12 July in St. Louis.

In September, Phantom Eye will move to NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB, California, to begin a series of ground and taxi tests in preparation for its maiden flight in the first quarter of 2011. The debut flight is expected to last 4 to 8hr.

"We still have a ways to go," said Drew Mallow, Phantom Eye programme manager, including continuing wing testing, integration work and one additional structural test.

Boeing's Phantom Works have been pushing hard to maintain a stringent self-imposed schedule, Mallow said, demonstrating not only the technology but also Boeing's rapis prototyping abilities.

"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," said Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Phantom Works. "Phantom Eye is the first of its kind and could open up a whole new market in collecting data and communications."

Phantom Eye has a 45.72m (150ft) wingspan, will cruise at approximately 150kt and can carry up to a 204kg (450lb) payload. It is powered by two 2.3-litre, four-cylinder engines originally designed for a Ford Ranger pick-up truck, each with 111kW (150hp).

"The hydrogen propulsion system will be the key to Phantom Eye's success," Mallow said. "It is very efficient and offers great fuel economy, and its only by-product is water, so it's also a 'green' aircraft."

The engines and propulsion system have undergone entensive component testing the an altitude chamger, said Bill Norby, hydrogen systems integration manager, making sure the aircraft will be able to maintain combustion at such a high altitude for long periods of time.

"One of the most vexing problems to solve so far was the oil consumption with the new turbo charger," he said "It was not a difficult problem to solve, but it was time consuming to work through the data, balancing pressure and capacity."
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