The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] has shown a new hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye unmanned airborne plane that can aloft at 65,000 feet for as many as four days.
The first flight is expected at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California in early 2011.
Boeing’s goal is to eventually develop a drone that can stay aloft for ten days. If it does so, it claims that four of the aircraft, based in the continental United States, could provide continuous battle field surveillance, eliminating the need for foreign airbase access and a global supply chain.
While a remarkable weapon in itself, Phantom Eye is also notable for its use of two four-cylinder Ranger truck engines from Ford Motor Company. The CEO of Ford Motor Company, Alan Mulally came from Boeing of course, where he was executive vice president. Ford along with General Motors and Chrysler, once key U.S. defense contractors, long ago exited the business, leaving the field to other industrial companies, with many of them now partnered with offshore firms.
“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 byproduct is water, so it’s also a ‘green’ aircraft,” claimed Drew Mallow, Phantom Eye program manager for Boeing.