Whistleblowing Wednesday: Military’s Mega-Drone Revealed
Introducing the U.S. military’s eventual goal for Phantom Eye — a ginormous, hydrogen-powered uber-drone. The vehicle, manufactured by Boeing and designed as a huge surveillance tool, performed its first test flight at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center last week, the company announced on Monday.
But Phantom Eye, which boasts a mammoth 150-foot wingspan, isn’t soaring to great heights just quite yet. During last week’s test, shown in the video above, the mega-drone reached an altitude of 4,080 feet and stayed airborne for a total of 28 minutes, reaching a cruising speed of 62 knots.
That’s a far cry from what the military wants the drone to eventually do. Phantom Eye is supposed to reach a maximum altitude of 65,000 feet and stay aloft for up to 96 hours — that is, four whole days — at speeds reaching 150 knots. That would make the flying spy the biggest and longest-loitering drone the United States has.
The Phantom Eye’s size means the drone can be loaded up with a whopping 450 lbs. of sensors and cameras — which will come in handy for toting the military’s forthcoming spy gear, like Gorgon Stare, designed to spy on “city-size” areas, or the Army’s ARGUS sensor, which collects the equivalent of 79.8 years of video footage each day. Combine that capacity with a lengthy loiter time, and you’ve got a high-flying spy system that can peek on entire cities for days at a time.