Boeing’s high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV), Phantom Eye, has successfully completed taxi testing at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) in California, US, bringing it a step closer towards its second test flight.
During the testing, the liquid hydrogen-powered demonstrator UCAV travelled atop its launching cart system and reached speeds of up to 40k.
The software and hardware upgrades, required to prepare the UCAV for high-altitude flights, have also been completed by the Phantom Eye team.
Boeing Phantom Eye programme manager Drew Mallow said: "We upgraded the autonomous flight systems and have achieved all the required test points in preparation for the next flight."
The company has also enhanced the aircraft’s landing system based on lessons learnt from its initial flight, during which the landing gear broke after digging into Edwards AFB’s lakebed.
Boeing Phantom Eye chief engineer Brad Shaw said the team used the company’s tactical fighter aircraft landing systems as an example to design a new solution.
The UCAV reached an altitude of 4,080ft and speeds of up to 62k during its 28-minute first test flight at Nasa’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB in June 2012.
A series of medium-speed taxi tests validated Phantom Eye’s ground guidance, navigation and control, mission planning, pilot interface and operational procedures in April 2012 at the same location.
Designed and manufactured by Boeing Phantom Works, the Phantom Eye is designed to assist the US military in conducting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions in Afghanistan.
Featuring a wing-span of 150ft, the fixed-wing UAV will cruise at 150k, carry up to 450lb and stay aloft at altitudes of 65,000ft for up to four days, while performing surveillance over a large area.
Image: The Phantom Eye unmanned aircraft system during taxi testing at Edwards Air Force Base in California, US. Photo courtesy of Carla Thomas / Nasa.