Boeing Tests Drone Capable of Unmanned Flight for Days

Drone designed to stay in the air for days
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 5, 2012 10:04 AM CDT
The new Boeing Phantom Eye unmanned drone takes off on its first autonomous flight at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif, June 1, 2012.   (AP Photo/Boeing, Robert Ferguson)
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(Newser) – Drone technology took another leap on Friday, with Boeing's first test flight for the Phantom Eye, a huge, hydrogen-powered spy craft capable of staying airborne for days at a time. In its first test flight, the Eye only stayed aloft for about 28 minutes, however, circling around Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert, the LA Times reports. It also had trouble landing, breaking its landing gear in a lake bed. But Boeing declared victory nonetheless.

"This flight puts Boeing on a path to accomplish another aerospace first—the capability of four days of un-refueled, autonomous flight," the president of the St. Louis facility building the plane said. Current spy drones top out at 30 hours in the air. The Phantom Eye has a wingspan of 150 feet, and can spy on huge areas from heights as high as 65,000 feet. Boeing has been developing it for four years, at its own expense—the military has yet to commit to buying the Eye. (Read more Boeing stories.)

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