A senior Boeing [BA] official recently said the company’s Phantom Ray unmanned aircraft successfully completed its second flight just one week after a previously announced April 27 first flight from NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB, Calif.
“The two flights achieved all their objectives,” Darryl Davis, president of Boeing’s Phantom Ray division, told reporters during a teleconference.
The first flight took place following a series of high-speed taxi tests in March that validated ground guidance, navigation and control and verified mission planning, pilot interface and operational procedures. Flying at up to 7,500 feet and reaching a speed of 178 knots, the aircraft demonstrated basic airworthiness. The second flight was aimed at demonstrating stability and control, according to Davis.
Boeing is targeting both the Air Force’s next-generation long-range strike competition, as well as the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier-Based Surveillance and Strike System (UCLASS), with the platform.
Phantom Ray is derived, using internal Boeing funding, from the now defunct Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems, or J-UCAS, a joint Navy Air Force drone project. Boeing’s entry for that competition at the time was designated the X-45.
Davis said the company is planning additional flight demonstrations for the future and that unnamed government agencies have indicated interest in using the vehicle as test bed.
“We will decide in next four to eight weeks on the parameters of the next flight test,” he said.
While Boeing had originally planned for five internally funded flights, Davis said all desired data points had already been collected in the first two.
He said future flights could examine capabilities such as wideband communications and manned/unmanned aircraft interoperability. He said a more robust communications suite would have to be integrated before attempting such demonstrations.
Boeing plans to continue test flights throughout the year at Edwards. The aircraft is designed to fly at 40,000 feet at speeds of more than 600 mph.
The company is simultaneously developing another unmanned aircraft, the Phantom Eye, at Edwards. Designed for surveillance and reconnaissance missions, it is expected to fly for more than four days at a time at altitudes of up to 65,000 feet. It is to be fueled by liquid hydrogen. A first flight is tentatively scheduled for August, Davis said.