June 5, 2012 at 2:21 PM ET
A drone with a giant belly full of liquid hydrogen designed to fly for four days without refueling completed its first test flight, Boeing announced on Monday.
The autonomous Phantom Eye took off from Edwards Air Force Base in California and spent 28 minutes aloft, reaching an altitude of 4,080 feet.
As seen in this video, the plane requires a trolley-like thing to take off. Though the plane landed safely, the landing gear dug into the lakebed and broke, Boeing reported.
The plane is designed to cruise up at 65,000 feet, which is well above the weather and other aircraft. From there, it can spy on enemies, monitor natural disasters, and serve as a communications relay.
"The wing is one of the critical technologies. It is 150 feet long, when it is flying it actually bows up some because of carrying the weight of the fuselage," Drew Mallow, Phantom Eye program manager, explains in the informational video below.
The fuselage carries twin fuel tanks, which are filled with liquid hydrogen. Combustion produces only water, making the plane “about as green as it can get when it is flying,” Mallow notes.
The plane can currently carry a 450 pound payload of 450. If testing continues to go well, future production versions will carry four times as much payload and stay aloft for up to ten days.
John Roach is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. To learn more about him, check out his website and follow him on Twitter. For more of our Future of Technology series, watch the featured video below.