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.”
World’s first flight by “flapless” aircraft
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.