Boeing’s new Phantom Ray aircraft made a covert first flight last week, taking to the skies above California’s Edwards Air Force Base. The unmanned airborne system (UAS) reached 7,500 feet, hitting a maximum speed of 178 knots and flying for a total of 17 minutes — sure, it won’t outlast the Phantom Eye anytime soon, but hey, we’ve all gotta start somewhere. What the 36-foot long vehicle lacks in relative endurance, it makes up stealth, designed to be undetectable on radar, and thanks to a deeply embedded engine, giving off a minimal amount of heat. Boeing will be running additional tests on the autonomous vehicle in the coming weeks, in attempt to prep it for possible future surveillance and attack missions. No word on when this might actually be hitting an airspace near you, but in the meantime, it’s probably best to refrain from ticking off any deep pocketed governments.
NASA's Global Hawk completes unmanned airborne refueling simulation, will do it for real next year (video)
While some bot makers are busying themselves designing AI to simulate humans’ natural and distinct lack of intelligence, it’s nice to see there are still old-fashioned researchers out there keeping the Skynet dream alive. Northrop Grumman’s aeronautics gurus have paired together a Global Hawk unmanned aircraft with a manned Proteus ship way up in the skies — 45,000 feet, to be precise — with the vessels of ingenuity managing to fly in tandem at a distance as short as 40 feet. Unsurprisingly, this is the first time such intimacy has been reached between UAVs (the Proteus had a monitoring crew on board to ensure the insurance bill wasn’t through the roof) in high altitude, and the ultimate goal of having two Global Hawks doing the deed without any human intervention is said to be within reach by next year. That’s when these light and agile air drones will be able to refuel themselves and go on for a mighty 120 hours in the air… plenty of time to complete a well planned extermination down below, if one were so inclined.