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Boeing unveils hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye UAV

Boeing unveils hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye UAV

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Boeing's new unmanned aerial vehicle, the Phantom Eye, can conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance -- and use hydrogen to do it.

American aerospace giant Boeing on Monday unveiled a new unmanned aerial vehicle that runs entirely on hydrogen.

Called the Phantom Eye unmanned airborne system, the aircraft can stay aloft at 65,000 feet for up to four days.

As with most UAVs, the aircraft will be used to collect data facilitate communication in enemy territory on the battlefield and across international boundaries.

"It is a perfect example of turning an idea into a reality," said Boeing Phantom Works president Darryl Davis at the launch event in St. Louis, Mo. "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."

Why hydrogen? Boeing says a hydrogen propulsion system -- which has a byproduct of only water -- is more efficient and offers "great fuel economy."

Translation: Boeing has, in so many words, made a green drone.

Underneath the hood are two 2.3-liter, four-cylinder engines making 150 horsepower each. The aircraft has a 150-foot wingspan, cruises at approximately 150 knots and can carry up to a 450-pound payload.

Key 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 (DARPA); and NASA.

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Andrew Nusca

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Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure