Drone With No Moving Control Surfaces – Maneuver Using Supersonic Blasts of Air
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MAGMA first flight, September 2017
Researchers at BAE Systems and The University of Manchester successfully test-flew an experimental unmanned aerial vehicle with no moving control surfaces
The 12-foot-span, jet-propelled MAGMA drone could help BAE develop stealthier warplanes.
Control surfaces account for a significant portion of an airplane’s radar signature.
Instead of rudders, ailerons and other conventional control surfaces, MAGMA relies on two new technologies for maneuverability.
- Wing circulation control “takes air from the aircraft engine and blows it supersonically through the trailing edge of the wing to provide control for the aircraft,”
- Fluidic thrust vectoring, meanwhile, “uses blown air to deflect the exhaust, allowing for the direction of the aircraft to be changed.”
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In its first flight, MAGMA featured two small vertical fins for stability. But the fins, themselves a significant source of radar reflectivity, could be temporary. “
Furthermore, MAGMA is not BAE System’s first test of a UAV with no moving control surfaces.
In 2010, the company — along with Cranfield University — tested the smaller Demon drone, which also used blown air for maneuverability.
The demon was the result of a five-year, $8-million research initiative that BAE Systems launched in 2005.
MAGMA represents a continuation of that work.
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