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An unmanned aerial combat drone developed by Boeing has successfully completed its first flight at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Called the Boeing Phantom Ray, the aircraft is designed to support several potential missions including surveillance and attack.
Boeing says its Phantom Ray flew for 17 minutes, reaching an altitude of 7,500 feet and a speed of 178 knots, or 205 miles per hour.
The Unmanned Aerial System, or UAS, has been in development since mid-2008, and the first test flight on April 27 was designed to demonstrate its basic airworthiness.
Additional flights, ultimately taking the UAS to 40,000 feet at nearly the speed of sound, will take place over the next few weeks.
The Phantom Ray has not been developed for any specific mission and Boeing is testing it at its own expense.
The company says it will serve as a platform for a variety of scenarios involving reconnaissance, strike or electronic attack.
Drones similar to the Phantom Ray have been in use over Afghanistan and Pakistan in recent years.
The aircraft's delta wing shape allows it to evade radar and its deeply embedded engine reduces heat and noise making it very difficult to detect.
The aircraft is flown by an operator on the ground via a computer, programmed to tell the UAV where to fly, when to deploy its payload, and when to return to base.
At 36 feet long with a wingspan of 50 feet, it is also designed for inflight refuelling.