London: The maiden flight of a revolutionary
US-made drone aircraft that can stay in the air for up to four
days at 65,000 feet, prying at terror safe havens in countries
like Pakistan, is just days away.
The `Phantom Eye`, made by Boeing`s secretive Phantom
Works division, is a high-altitude long endurance unmanned
airborne system which is powered by hydrogen.
The inaugural flight of the new drone will take place at
Edwards Air Force Base in California and is expected to last
between four and eight hours, the Daily Mail reported on Monday.
`Phantom Eye is the first of its kind and could open up a
whole new market in collecting data and communications,`
Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Phantom Works, said.
The unmanned aircraft will produce only water as a by-
"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," the
paper quoted Boeing officials as saying.
The Phantom Eye had completed 12 days of ground
vibration and structural mode interaction tests in June this
year at NASA`s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air
Force Base, California.
"It`s exciting to be part of such a unique aircraft,"
said Drew Mallow, Phantom Eye program manager for Boeing.
"The hydrogen propulsion system will be the key to
Phantom Eye`s success. It is very efficient and offers great
fuel economy, and its only by-product is water, so it`s also a
"green" aircraft," Mallow said.
Phantom Eye is powered by two 2.3-litre, four-cylinder
engines that provide 150 horsepower each. It has a 150-foot
wingspan, will cruise at approximately 150 knots and can carry
up to a 450-pound payload.
Boeing is also developing a larger unmanned plane that
will stay aloft for more than 10 days and `Phantom Ray,` a
fighter-sized Unmanned Aerial Vehicle that will be a test bed
for more advanced technologies, which made its inaugural
flight in April, the report said.
The US regularly uses two types of unmanned armed
drones, the Predator and Reaper, to attack militant hideouts
in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In the latest such strike
yesterday, the CIA-run drones targeted a vehicle and a
compound in North Waziristan tribal region of Pakistan,
killing six militants.