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Boeing Unveils Phantom Eye Hydrogen-Powered Unmanned Airborne System; Powered by Ford HICE Engines

13 July 2010

Phantomeye2
Unveiling of the Phantom Eye. One of the hydrogen engine assemblies is placed off to the right. Source: Boeing. Click to enlarge.

The Boeing Company unveiled the hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye unmanned airborne system, a demonstrator that will stay aloft at 65,000 feet for up to four days, with ten planned for a future larger version. (Earlier post.) The Phantom Eye is propelled by two 2.3-liter, four-cylinder Ford hydrogen-fueled internal combustion engines (HICE).

The engines deliver 150 hp (112 kW) each. Phantom Eye has a 150-foot wingspan, will cruise at approximately 150 knots and can carry up to a 450-pound payload.

Later this summer, Phantom Eye will be shipped to NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., to begin a series of ground and taxi tests in preparation for its first flight in early 2011. That debut flight is expected to last between four and eight hours.

Phantom Eye is the first of its kind and could open up a whole new market in collecting data and communications. 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.

—Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Phantom Works

Key Phantom Eye suppliers and partners include Ford Motor Company (engines); Aurora Flight Sciences (wing); Mahle Powertrain (propulsion controls); Ball Aerospace (fuel tanks); Turbosolutions Engineering (turbochargers); the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency; and NASA.

July 13, 2010 in Aviation, Engines, Hydrogen | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack (0)

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Hydrogen is particularly well suited for aircraft since in aircraft, volume is not a big issue (simply use some larger wings), but weight is essential.

Ultra light weight Hydrogen tanks would be a necessity to carry enough fuel for 96 hours flying time with 450 lbs payload. Future higher performance lighter ICE is another possibility to increase payload and/or to down size.

Is this another U-2?

Could it be electrified and stealth to go undetected?

A few comments - I wonder would methane be better than H2?
Does it work well because it is so cold @ 65000 feet (and there is less thermal difference between the H2 and the ambient ?
Volume is not a problem for slow moving aircraft, but it is for airliners and normal speed aircraft - they tend to be long and thin.

Even if you electrified it, it could still be detected with radar (and optically) if it has a 150 feet wingspan.

This must have been conceived way earlier than the recent successful man-carrying 26-hr solar-powered plane.
The presence of a pilot and a cockpit with life support system (O2 system) of the solar plane can easily bring the payload of the solar plane to around 450 lbs, or on par with the H2-ICE plane.

The solar plane can fly much longer, farther, and higher, limited only by the reliability of its components, and not limited by the fuel supply, like the H2-ICE plane. Furthermore, electric motors and electrical components are far more durable than turbocharged piston-powered engines.
Electric motors do not lose power at altitudes, rendering turbocharging totally unnecessary and greatly reducing the weight of the power plant.

Does it work well because it is so cold @ 65000 feet (and there is less thermal difference between the H2 and the ambient ?

I think it has more to do with the flame speed of H2.

In the Reagan years, work on the national aerospace plane assumed H2 fuel, and ultimately failed as a result. Frontal cross section had to be small for aerodynamics, but fuel tank volume had to be large because of low energy density of H2.

I don't think pressure tanks would be worth the weight in wings. You have to have a lot of mass to contain the H2. The shell-to-volume ratio wouldn't be very good on skinny tanks.

I think Lockheed Martin classified EEStor's technology and is using it to produce electrified UAV's at the skunk works, with testing currently going on at Area 51. Since Boeing doesn't have access to Lockheed-EEStor technology, they have to use hydrogen.

DARPA and NASA are involved in this Boeing project also, and they have clearance for classified technologies. If EEStor's tech is any good, it would have been considered here already.

@ejj,

, Of course! Now that you say it, it all makes sense!

Why not use a more efficient FC?

@ Healthy & Roger: I was actually kind of joking in my previous post...but there is a very slight possibility that EEStor tech is so good, kind of like the stealth fighter was for all those years, that it has been shrouded in secrecy by the government and they are indeed producing & testing it like I described. Perhaps if this Boeing tech was so good (from a national security standpoint) this story wouldn't be here and the plane in the picture would only exist in photos taken at night by enthusiasts around Area 51.

@ Healthy & Roger: I was actually kind of joking in my previous post...but there is a very slight possibility that EEStor tech is so good, kind of like the stealth fighter was for all those years, that it has been shrouded in secrecy by the government and they are indeed producing & testing it like I described. Perhaps if this Boeing tech was so good (from a national security standpoint) this story wouldn't be here and the plane in the picture would only exist in photos taken at night by enthusiasts around Area 51.

@ejj,

My supposition is that if eestor is delivering the goods to Lockheed, it is for rail guns on ships and lasers on planes. Think "Project Crossbow" from Real Genius.

@Healthy:

Real Genius is one of my favorite 80's movies! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wr65ux4sC5g (fast forward to 2:17). I think Obama would LOVE a Project Crossbow right now (no more innocent civilian casualties from drone strikes? one shot, one kill for terrorists?). I wish he had a Project Crossbow, space-based, air-based or sea-based, though the space idea is probably the best (an unmanned crossbow). Obama campaigned on not weaponizing space, but campaign promises are broken routinely by everyone so EEStor tech could be in the mix somewhere.

The military likes h2 because they dont need to ship it they can generate it closer to the battlefield. Also unlike typical batteries its much much more energy dense.

As for why the use of ice engines rather then fuel cells.. they have both versions.

Oh and the h2 jet plane didnt fail due to size of the tanks.. For jumbo jets and such its just assumed rightly so I might add that its far more likely the h2 will be converted to jet fuel or that biofuel plus h2 will be used to create upgraded fuels that are drop ins for jet fuel.

The X-30 National Aero-Space Plane (NASP) was an attempt by the United States to create a viable single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) spacecraft. The project was cancelled prior to the first craft being built because there really wasn't a need for it once the USSR fell.

Love the ee-stor speculation ejj. But even with large capacitance - you gotto recharge the suckers. DARPA would do better (maybe has) with flux charging in situ. This effectively removes the flight time bounds and provides a more permanent "eye"

Nothing about this plane makes it "phantom" as it is easily detected with standard scanning technology.

Reel - I think the eestor ultracaps could, theoretically, be a massive energy storage / super-fast discharge medium for a space-based assassination laser (like Project Crossbow in Real Genius), recharged via retractable solar panels. Scary part is if terrorists get their hands on their own project crossbows --- no head of state would be safe unless they had protection overhead at all times.

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