A new Boeing unmanned drone powered by liquid-hydrogen and designed to stay airborne for days has completed its first autonomous flight at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base.
During the 28-minute flight, the Phantom Eye reached an altitude of 4,080 feet (1,244 meters) with a cruising speed of 62 knots (114 kph) before landing at the California desert base.
When the drone touched down, it damaged its landing gear, but Boeing Phantom Works President hailed the flight as beginning 'a new era' of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
The company clams it can go up to four days in the air without refueling, and flies at an altitude of 65,000 feet.
Phantom Eye is designed to carry out surveillance and reconnaissance missions while remaining at high altitude. It will produce only water as a by-product.
"Phantom Eye is the first of its kind and could open up a whole new market in collecting data and communications," the Daily Mail quoted Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Phantom Works, as saying at the unveiling ceremony in St. Louis.
"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.
"The capabilities inherent in Phantom Eye's design will offer game-changing opportunities for our military, civil and commercial customers," he added.
Phantom Eye is powered by two 2.3-litre, four-cylinder engines, which provide 150 horsepower each. It has a 150-foot wingspan, will cruise at approximately 150 knots and can carry up to a 450-pound payload.
Boeing is also developing a larger unmanned plane that will stay aloft for more than 10 days and 'Phantom Ray,' a fighter-sized UAV that will be a test bed for more advanced technologies.