Boeing's Phantom Eye UAV takes off for its initial autonomous flight, June 1, 2012, at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center. (Boeing)
EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - A new Boeing unmanned drone that is designed to stay airborne for days has completed its first autonomous flight at Edwards Air Force Base, despite a rocky landing.
Boeing said Monday that the 28-minute flight of the Phantom Eye began at 6:22 a.m. Friday and the aircraft reached an altitude of 4,080 feet and a cruising speed of 62 knots before landing at the California desert base.
Boeing says after touching down, the drone was damaged when the landing gear dug into a lakebed and broke.
The drone is powered by liquid-hydrogen and the company says it can go up to four days in the air without refueling.
Boeing Phantom Works President Darryl Davis hailed the flight as the beginning of "a new era" of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
The defense sector has its sights fixed on high-altitude, long-endurance operations for unmanned aerial vehicles, often using more exotic energy sources, and plane builders like Boeing and Northrup Grumman are responding.