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Boeing's 'Ginormous, Hydrogen-Powered Uber-Drone' Takes First Flight


"This day ushers in a new era of persistent Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance..."

It may have had a rocky landing, but the new Boeing unmanned drone with technology enabling it to stay airborne for days has completed its first autonomous flight at Edwards Air Force Base.

The Phantom Eye is a piece of equipment described by Wired as a "ginormous, hydrogen-powered uber-drone." It earned this name for its 150-foot wingspan and its 450-pound carrying capacity. Not to mention the fact that it is powered by liquid-hydrogen, allowing it to go four days in the air without refueling.

"This day ushers in a new era of persistent Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) where an unmanned aircraft will remain on station for days at a time providing critical information and services," Darryl Davis, president, Boeing Phantom Works, said in a statement. "This flight puts Boeing on a path to accomplish another aerospace first -- the capability of four days of unrefueled, autonomous flight."

Boeing said Monday that the 28-minute flight of the Phantom Eye began at 6:22 a.m. Friday and the aircraft reached an altitude of 4,080 feet and a cruising speed of 62 knots before landing at the California desert base. Boeing said after touching down, the drone was damaged when the landing gear dug into a lakebed and broke.

Watch the test flight:

Still, Wired writes this is a "far cry" from its goal maximum altitude of 65,000 feet with top speeds of 150 knots. Meeting these benchmarks would make it the "biggest and longest-loitering" unarmed drone created in the U.S.

"This flight demonstrated Phantom Eye's initial handling and maneuverability capabilities," Phantom Eye Program Manager Drew Mallow said in a statement. "The team is now analyzing data from the mission and preparing for our next flight. When we fly the demonstrator again, we will enter higher and more demanding envelopes of high-altitude flight."

 Prior to this test, the Phantom Eye conducted "taxi tests" proving its "ground guidance, navigation and control, mission planning, pilot interface and operational procedures," according to the Boeing press release.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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