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Boeing Hydrogen Powered Drone First Flight 160

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the eco-friendly-spying-program dept.
garymortimer writes with news of the test flight of a hydrogen powered UAV. From the article: "Phantom Eye's innovative and environmentally responsible liquid-hydrogen propulsion system will allow the aircraft to stay on station for up to four days while providing persistent monitoring over large areas at a ceiling of up to 65,000 feet, creating only water as a byproduct. The demonstrator, with its 150-foot wingspan, is capable of carrying a 450-pound payload."
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Boeing Hydrogen Powered Drone First Flight

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  • Let me guess (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Those 450 pounds won't be flowers and kittens, right?

    • by Shivetya (243324)

      Well maybe they would be Kill Kittens? A fun little encounter in Arduin.

      Damn am I showing my age and ....

      http://mrlizard.com/dungeons-and-dragons/dungeons-and-dragons-4th-edition/kill-kittens/ [mrlizard.com]

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arduin [wikipedia.org]

    • by sanman2 (928866)

      Only in the ponyverse

    • by bws111 (1216812)

      Since it is called "Phantom Eye" and it "provides persistent monitoring", it seems like cameras would be a good bet.

    • Those 450 pounds won't be flowers and kittens, right?

      Close. The payload will be the new eco-friendly AGM-115 Flowerkitten laser-guided missile. It's just like the Hellfire, only made out of recycled materials.

      • by arisvega (1414195)

        Phantom Eye’s innovative and environmentally responsible liquid-hydrogen propulsion system will allow the aircraft [..]

        The payload will be the new eco-friendly AGM-115 Flowerkitten laser-guided missile. It's just like the Hellfire, only made out of recycled materials.

        Good news, because the guilt of not being environmentally friendly while exterminating humans can be unbearable.

        • My father while working on a project to clean up old nerve agent informed me that a common nerve agent reacted with concrete to become inert after a short period of time. Sometimes it is important that your weapons do their job and then shut off to no longer pose any threat to your invading force.
  • Isn't this kind of like strapping a bomb to a bomb? All that hydrogen could make one hell of a detonator if the folks involved aren't careful.

    • by EmagGeek (574360) <gterich.aol@com> on Monday June 04, 2012 @08:34PM (#40215279) Journal

      One of the coolest things about Hydrogen is that at the pressures required to keep it liquid at room temp, it is a supercritical fluid, which means it is both liquid and gas.

      What makes this cool is that, upon loss of the pressure that is keeping it liquid, it will spontaneously switch to its gaseous state. And, this change is not mediated at all since a supercritical fluid has no heat of vaporization.

      In other words, the fuel source works at all temperatures, even the -50C found at altitude, without requiring an external source of heat.

      Of course, the bad part happens when there's an accident, and hundreds of gallons of supercritical H2 suddenly become several hundred thousand cubic meters of H2 gas, which is not exactly what you want to have around when there's a lot of energy being dissipated by mangling metal.

      • Hydrogen cannot be kept liquid at room temperature, or indeed above 33 Kelvin.

      • Of course, the bad part happens when there's an accident, and hundreds of gallons of supercritical H2 suddenly become several hundred thousand cubic meters of H2 gas, which is not exactly what you want to have around when there's a lot of energy being dissipated by mangling metal.

        Depends on how accidental the explosion is, and on what accidental target.

        Seems to me that this drone doesn't need to carry a bomb per se, as it can act as one.

    • Every aircraft with a gas tank could be considered a bomb by that logic. While I don't know the exact composition of regular jet fuel, I'm pretty sure it is just as combustible as pure hydrogen if not more so.

      • by jklovanc (1603149)

        The difference is that jet fuel spills while super critical hydrogen instantly transforms into a huge volume of explosive gas. Even without an ignition source the escaping gas can cause massive damage. Add those together and one gets a huge explosion.

      • While I don't know the exact composition of regular jet fuel, I'm pretty sure it is just as combustible as pure hydrogen if not more so.

        Actually, when I was researching the hydrogen-powered design predecessor to the U2 (the Lockeed CL 400), I came across some Air Force tests on the combustibility of liquid hydrogen in spill tests, as a safety concern. It turned out that spilled liquid hydrogen was less combustible than kerosene, as the evaporating hydrogen dissipated too quickly to ignite.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Isn't that what you want it to do in case it gets captured by the Iranians again?

      • by siddesu (698447)
        If you really don't want it captured by the Iranians you could simply not fly it over Iran.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Water as a by-product!? We can make it rain I tells ya! We just need enough of these. So we'll have to charge 50 times GDP. But that's okay the desperate farmers will pay. To offset the costs we can write a play and musical about it!

  • by Rie Beam (632299) on Monday June 04, 2012 @08:32PM (#40215263) Journal

    Environmentally-responsible airplane that can also carry a wicked-heavy bomb....*sigh*

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 04, 2012 @08:36PM (#40215289)

      What if it used a hydrogen bomb? Wouldn't that be more environmentally friendly?

      • by Cryacin (657549)
        Without the fusion detonator, and excluding the giant crater where Elbonia used to be, yes!
    • by bws111 (1216812)

      Hmm, "Phantom Eye", provides "persistent monitoring". Yep, sounds like a bomber.

      • Hmm, "Phantom Eye", provides "persistent monitoring". Yep, sounds like a bomber.

        Uhhh, yeah... The demonstrator, with its 150-foot wingspan, is capable of carrying a 450-pound payload.

        • by bws111 (1216812) on Monday June 04, 2012 @09:01PM (#40215445)

          So 'payload' means bomb? Since when? And do people really think you could make the bomb-carrying mechanism, bomb doors, and a bomb all fit in under 450 pounds?

          The payload is cameras and associated equipment.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            True, you're right. This device isn't likely to carry bombs. However, from TFA:

            “While Phantom Eye is important for many reasons, future ISR, strike and bomber programs also will benefit from the technologies we are developing and maturing for our customers,” said [Boeing Phantom Works president Darryl] Davis.

          • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Monday June 04, 2012 @10:19PM (#40215939)
            I think Kevin Smith is still under 450 lbs, and he's created a few bombs.
          • And do people really think you could make the bomb-carrying mechanism, bomb doors, and a bomb all fit in under 450 pounds?

            Easily [inetres.com].

          • by Chewbacon (797801)
            I'm not a chemist, but isn't hydrogen pretty freaking flammable? Makes a nice incendiary weapon.
          • by siddesu (698447)

            So 'payload' means bomb? Since when?

            Since the Bulgarians invented aerial bombardment, I suppose.

      • by careysub (976506)

        Recall the CIA's experience with recon drones - they quickly discovered that the ability to occasionally take out something seen in real time is very desirable.

        It is unlikely this lesson has been forgotten, and 450 lb is an awful lot of weight for just a camera system, however sophisticated. A small precision strike missile (like the 110 lb Hellfire) is very likely to be a payload option for one of these.

    • by jklovanc (1603149)

      I think you need to look up the definition of "wicked-heavy". 450 pounds is not very heavy at all considering that if an f-15e had enough hard points it could carry 50 of them. The drone is a spotter not a .bomber. Most of that payload will be sensors.

    • For whatever reason, somebody was shameless enough to start talking about 'environmentally friendly'(because if there is anything that war isn't...); but the fact that some of the more forward-thinking DoD types might want to be able to still move if their supply of diesel gets cut off isn't a huge surprise.

      Incidents like this one [cbsnews.com], make the effective price per gallon look substantially higher than domestic pump rate...
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        If their supply of diesel is cut off, do you really expect them to have a supply of hydrogen, which is refined from natural gas? (It can be made in other ways, but this is how it is done.)

        • by EQ (28372)

          If their supply of diesel is cut off, do you really expect them to have a supply of hydrogen, which is refined from natural gas? (It can be made in other ways, but this is how it is done.)

          US has massive natural gas reserves and production - it is an exporter of natural gas, over 1.4 trillion cubic feet to Canada and Mexico [eia.gov] alone, via pipeline. So obtaining hydrogen from that source will not be a question like crude-oil based diesel or gasoline fuel might be. Thats likely why they chose it, the environmental angle is just a PR bonus

          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            obtaining hydrogen from that source will not be a question like crude-oil based diesel or gasoline fuel might be.

            Good thing they proved that biodiesel from algae was viable with our money at Sandia NREL in the 1980s, and good thing they're testing biofuels in military fleet vehicles right now.

            Good thing we actually have significant oil reserves — if we can't secure additional oil reserves using our military and the oil we've got now, we're pathetic.

    • Environmentally-responsible airplane that can also carry a wicked-heavy bomb....*sigh*

      Trust me, bombs will still be delivered by high-speed vehicles. This plane is for observation, so the bomber knows where to drop its load. Environmentally-friendly observation, that is.

    • by rtb61 (674572)

      Here is the commercial http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bdUfzftGNQk [youtube.com]. So they are aiming for a 2,000 pound capacity with high hang time, 10 days, over a region. No mention of price though, based on that alone, likely to be extremely profitable for Boeing. They should of course still have solar panels on all upper surfaces to reduce required battery capacity or using up fuel to drive generators, to power any equipment, especially with 10 day operational time.

    • Environmentally-responsible airplane that can also carry a wicked-heavy bomb....*sigh*

      a 450 pound bomb is NOT "wicked heavy". It's more like "too small to bother with".

      Note that the Air Force has one bomb size that could be carried by this thing - the "mini".

      Note also that "environmentally-responsible" is meaningless when the LH2 is made the old-fashioned way, by steam reforming (yes, manufacturing H2 produces CO2, even when you ignore the energy required, which also produces CO2).

      Admittedly, H@ manufac

  • by parallel_prankster (1455313) on Monday June 04, 2012 @08:41PM (#40215327)
    Are they going to use them for watering the crops or something?
  • It only creates water as a byproduct! It's so clean! So innovative! So environmentally responsible! Luckily, liquid hydrogen can be found anywhere! No need to burn any of those nasty fossil fuels or evil nookyaler things, no sir! This is the real deal! Clean, clean, clean! Next stop, The Hydrogen Economy [energybulletin.net]!
    • Given the, at best limited, ability of anti-nuclear lobbyists to do much of anything about the nuclear navy, I suspect that defense types have some very clear ideas about where they plan to find a source of electricity next to a large supply of water...
    • People have a problem with how hydrogen is produced now, while ignoring that as technology progresses it will solve storage and generation issues like the one mentioned. For some reason they cannot imagine that processes and materials will continue to be improved.

      The simple truth is that hydrogen is readily abundant, and that fueling will always be faster than transferring the equivalent amount of energy via electrical transfer.

      Hydrogen will win the end, we just don't know how yet... but its victory over o

      • by flatulus (260854)

        Hydrogen will win the end, we just don't know how yet...

        Wow - that is a "faith based" point of view if ever I've seen one.

        • Wow - that is a "faith based" point of view if ever I've seen one.

          It's not faith. It's simple science, understanding that hydrogen is (A) vastly abundant, and (B) extremely clean to use. That along with electric motors making way more sense than conventional combustion engines, and battery technology getting harder and harder to ramp up to store a decent range makes the domination of hydrogen inevitable after we have a brief flirtation with battery driven electric cars.

          It's just looking at all the facts

    • by timeOday (582209)
      Liquid hydrogen has long been used as a rocket propellant (including the Saturn V upper stage) and environmental impact has nothing to do with it. Liquid hydrogen has triple [wikipedia.org] the specific energy density of jet fuel, which is awfully handy for pushing the limits of endurance.
  • What does it take to get that liquid hydrogen in the first place. I bet this is as environmentally friendly as the process to make all the batteries in hybrid vehicles.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by cduffy (652)

      What does it take to get that liquid hydrogen in the first place. I bet this is as environmentally friendly as the process to make all the batteries in hybrid vehicles.

      Funny thing -- the higher-end batteries (NiCd, LiPO) aren't all that environmentally unfriendly. It's the cheap lead-acid ones (which happen to be widely used in Chinese electric scooters) that are pretty nasty.

      And what it takes... really depends on the approach taken. I mean, splitting hydrogen out from water is something I'd expect every ch

      • "Responsible nuclear [power]"... Now, there's an oxymoron for you. Especially in the context of the full processing cycle, from mining to waste management.

  • Great! (Score:5, Funny)

    by BitHive (578094) on Monday June 04, 2012 @09:01PM (#40215443) Homepage

    Is the facility where these violations of our privacy are orchestrated going to be solar powered?

  • Good thing it only produces water (con trails) at altitude - those don't have any effect. At high altitude it would be better to burn coal so the result is just CO2 which doesn't seed clouds and reflect sunlight. Anyone got a coal powered aircraft?
    • Actually Coal will also release water. Simple example: CH4 + 2 O2 -> CO2 + 2 H2O
      Yes its methane but you get the point. Fossil fuels create CO2 and water.

      • by slew (2918)

        Actually Coal will also release water. Simple example: CH4 + 2 O2 -> CO2 + 2 H2O
        Yes its methane but you get the point. Fossil fuels create CO2 and water.

        Ignoring the fact for a moment the high temperatures it takes to burn real "anthracite" coal which would probably make it impractical for a light weight drone, burning coal is mostly C + O2 -> CO2 (and some carbon monoxide). The problem with coal is not that it has much Hydrogen in it (which would be volatile gases like hydrocarbons dissolved like Cannel Coal or residual sugars from organic molecules), but most coal has lots of Sulfur which makes acid rain. Whatever hydrogen there is in coal usually d

  • by Anonymous Coward

    When will the technology of this UAV trickle down to automakers?

    I'd love to drive a bomb.

  • Along with water, isn't there quite a bit of heat produced as part of the fuel cell process? It would seem to me that this may take away some of the stealth benefits, no?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Look up ortho and para hydrogen. Here is a quote from the Wikipedia article. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spin_isomers_of_hydrogen "If orthohydrogen is not removed from liquid hydrogen, the heat released during its decay can boil off as much as 50% of the original liquid[5]." This is a demonstration of quantum mechanical effects on a macro scale.

  • When do I get my flying car?

  • by bmo (77928) on Monday June 04, 2012 @11:38PM (#40216293)

    All these shenanigans about Hydrogen being a perfectly clean fuel ignores the fact of where it comes from.

    We don't get hydrogen from splitting water. That costs too much. We get it from natural gas, which has 1 carbon atom and 4 hydrogen atoms. This is done by steam reforming, and while it's possible to sequester the resulting CO2 by injecting it underground, it's not done by anyone. Because, again, it costs money.

    We can also get it from coal, after conversion to "town gas" and that's not the cleanest of processes either.

    Yes, I'm jaded. I used to be a true believer in this stuff, then I read more and grew up.

    --
    BMO

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      while it's possible to sequester the resulting CO2 by injecting it underground

      [citation needed]

      So far this has had occasionally hilarious results...

      • by bmo (77928)

        So far this has had occasionally hilarious results..

        I said it's possible. The science is sound. The technology is expensive to develop, however.

        You didn't read further where I said nobody does it because of cost.

        --
        BMO

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          You didn't read further where I said nobody does it because of cost.

          It's not because of cost, it's because it doesn't work. The CO2 comes back out again and you have no control over where that happens. If it comes out where people live, you will likely kill them.

          What Can We Learn From [utexas.edu]
          the CO2-EOR Record?

          (1) The operational risks of capturing, compressing,
          transporting and injecting CO2

          (2) The risk of blowouts or very rapid CO2 release from
          wells

          (3) The risk that CO2 will leak into shallow aquifers
          and contaminate potable water

          (4) That sequestered CO2 (and possibly associated
          me

          • by bmo (77928)

            But that slideshow says, right after that, that in the 35 years of sequestration, there have been no fatalities nor injuries.

            And it goes on to point out the modes of failure which are easily handled - component failure like pumps and welds.

            And then it goes on to how you can monitor, by introducing tracers like isotopes.

            I think you were betting I wouldn't look at the PDF. I did.

            So... whatever, man. I had doubts about the safety myself, but now I don't.

            --
            BMO

            • by drinkypoo (153816)

              But that slideshow says, right after that, that in the 35 years of sequestration, there have been no fatalities nor injuries.

              That does not mean there has not been negative health impact.

              And then it goes on to how you can monitor, by introducing tracers like isotopes.

              Oh good, what could possibly go wrong with that?

              So... whatever, man. I had doubts about the safety myself, but now I don't.

              Snicker snort.

              • by bmo (77928)

                >That does not mean there has not been negative health impact.

                Then cite something that does show health impact or GTFO.

                >Oh good, what could possibly go wrong with that?

                >afraid of isotopes as tracers

                Don't ever go in for a cardiac stress test. You wind up being so radioactive that police in cruisers so equipped to detect ionizing radiation will pull your butt over to see if you're hauling nuclear weapons. True.

                You are arguing from an irrational point of view. Indeed, you are arguing from the point

    • by orzetto (545509)

      Here comes another Slashdot pundit who thinks he's the first to contemplate the obvious... I would mod you down but there is no one who responded to mod up in response, so here it goes.

      We don't get hydrogen from splitting water. That costs too much.

      That depends on your source of energy. If you have a windmill producing electricity irregularly, you can use hydrogen as a buffer. This is not rocket science, there are PhD these completed on the subject almost 10 years ago [diva-portal.org].

      [...] while it's possible to sequester

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by bmo (77928)

        That depends on your source of energy. If you have a windmill producing electricity irregularly, you can use hydrogen as a buffer. This is not rocket science

        So? where are the windmills generating hydrogen for the hydrogen storage tanks at NASA? There aren't any, are there? That's because steam reforming is a lot cheaper and gets you lots of hydrogen quickly. Nobody uses fucking windmills to make hydrogen as a business, because they'd go broke.

        The reason for the decision was the carbon dioxide emission fe

    • "is not" != "can not be"

      • by bmo (77928)

        Until you can find a way to make electrolysis cheaper and more practical than steam reforming, you're going to get "won't be."

        Have a nice day.

        --
        BMO

        • Thanks for your reply -

          I don't disagree but perhaps if there is sufficient demand for hydrogen new techniques can be developed.

          And yes, I'm aware that I'm being overly optimistic :-)

  • by fluffy99 (870997) on Monday June 04, 2012 @11:40PM (#40216313)

    While hydrogen sucks for density per volume at 5.6 MJ/liter versus gasoline at 34 MJ/liter, it's actually has good energy density by weight with 123 MJ/kg versus gasoline at 47 MJ/kg. The huge bulbous body of this thing is simply to store all the fuel. I suspect their main reason for going hydrogen was that it's easier to burn at high altitude and has a wide useable fuel/air ratio.

    This low energy density per volume, is also the reason why it can't really be used for trucking. You'd take up half of the usable cargo room just to get the equivalent amount of energy as a normal diesel fill.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      This low energy density per volume, is also the reason why it can't really be used for trucking. You'd take up half of the usable cargo room just to get the equivalent amount of energy as a normal diesel fill.

      That's not really true, but you would need larger tanks (at least twice as large) and they would be vastly more expensive than the metal cans hanging on the sides of the typical semi tractor. Diesel fuel is also astoundingly non-risky stuff to be transporting in large quantities, and it's unclear where on the vehicle you'd put hydrogen storage tanks that would not be horribly dangerous; not to mention that the weight would pretty much have to be located higher up.

      In any case, Hydrogen is probably being used

      • by s122604 (1018036)

        In any case, Hydrogen is probably being used to support the fracking industry.

        seriously, the amount of natural gas, used to produce hydrogen for a fleet of these things would be lost in a rounding error in the natural gas industry

        Now, what IS being pushed by natural gas industry is LNG powered trucks and trains, and you know what I say: yea for them

        Hydraulic fracturing is not a new technology (although horizontal fracturing is), and it does have potential impacts, but those impacts can be mitigated far easier than drilling in deep water.

        the side effect is less oil needs to be r

  • by Aviation Pete (252403) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @01:19AM (#40216681)
    I am surprised that no poster so far mentioned the Boeing Condor [slashdot.org]. Same layout, same propulsion concept, same mission, only a different fuel this time. I guess some guys at Boeing never stopped working on this plane.
  • I, for one, am rather disappointed to see autonomous spy capabilities within spitting distance of 99.999 percent uptime when the average consumer smartphone becomes a glossy brick within 5 hours of being disconnected from the power grid.
  • I was really surprised to see that this Phantom Eye has a cable-braced wing, that it's not a cantilever wing like every other large-span plane built in the last 80 years. Granted, it makes a lot of sense structurally -- long span cantilever wings have to be built very strong at the root, as the bending stresses are enormous -- but still, it's a surprise to see.

    Boeing's Sugar Volt is a proposed hybrid electric/diesel commuter plane with a strut-braced wing -- so Boeing is apparently thinking outside the box

  • because we all know that Hydrogen and Aviation is a successful match.

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