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Boeing's Phantom Ray UAS makes maiden flight

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Phantom Ray first flight, April 2011. Photo: Boeing.

ST. LOUIS (BNS): Boeing Co.'s experimental drone, Phantom Ray unmanned airborne system (UAS), successfully completed its first flight April 27 at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California, but Boeing officials did not confirm details until Tuesday.

The 17-minute 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. Phantom Ray flew to 7,500 feet and reached a speed of 178 knots.

"The first flight moves us farther into the next phase of unmanned aircraft. Autonomous, fighter-sized unmanned aircraft are real, and the UAS bar has been raised," Craig Brown, Phantom Ray program manager for Boeing, was quoted as saying in the company press release.

The flight demonstrated Phantom Ray's basic airworthiness, setting the stage for additional flights in the next few weeks. These company-funded flights will prepare Phantom Ray to support potential missions that may include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; suppression of enemy air defenses; electronic attack; strike; and autonomous air refueling.

Boeing plans to continue test flights throughout the year at Edwards, gradually increasing the drone's performance. The Phantom Ray is designed to fly at 40,000 feet at speeds of more than 600 mph.

Phantom Ray is one of several programmes in Phantom Works, including Phantom Eye, that is part of a rapid prototyping initiative to design, develop and build advanced aircraft and then demonstrate their capabilities.

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Boeing  UAV  Phantom Ray  
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