Phantom Eye holds promise, but has long way to go

Boeing's massive hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye unmanned aerial vehicle performed its first test flight at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center June 1 reaching an altitude of 4,080 feet and a cruising speed of 62 knots, which is short of the performance attributes the military wants it eventually to achieve, reports Katie Drummond at Wired's Danger Room blog.

The Air Force wants the drone eventually to reach a maximum altitude of 65,000 feet and stay aloft for up to 96 hours at speeds reaching 150 knots, which would make the flying unmanned spy plane the biggest, most long-endurance UAV the United States has in its high-altitude surveillance arsenal, the story said.

Phantom Eye’s size means the UAV could carry as much as 450 lbs. of spy gear, including wide-area sensors, such as Gorgon Stare or the Army's ARGUS, that can watch entire cities or regions at a time, the story said. Phantom Eye offers the military an alternative to giant spy blimps that are technically complex and expensive.

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