Air-directed UAV completes first flight trials

December 20, 2017  - By

BAE Systems and the University of Manchester has successfully completed the first phase of flight trials with MAGMA — a small-scale unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that uses a blown-air system to maneuver. The UAV design paves the way for future stealthier aircraft designs, according to BAE Systems.

The new concept for aircraft control removes the conventional need for complex, mechanical moving parts to move flaps that control the aircraft during flight. The new design could provide greater control as well as reduce weight and maintenance costs, allowing for lighter, stealthier, faster and more efficient military and civil aircraft.

The two technologies to be trialed using the jet-powered MAGMA, are:

  • Wing Circulation Control, which 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, which uses blown air to deflect the exhaust, allowing for the direction of the aircraft to be changed.

The flight trials are part of an ongoing project between the two organizations and wider long-term collaboration between industry, academia and government to explore and develop innovative flight-control technology.

Further flight trials are planned for the coming months to demonstrate the flight control technologies with the ultimate aim of flying the aircraft without any moving control surfaces or fins. If successful, the tests will demonstrate the first use of such circulation control in flight on a gas turbine aircraft and from a single engine, BAE Systems said.

“The technologies we are developing with the University of Manchester will make it possible to design cheaper, higher performance, next-generation aircraft,” said Clyde Warsop, engineering fellow, BAE Systems. “Our investment in research and development drives continued technological improvements in our advanced military aircraft, helping to ensure UK aerospace remains at the forefront of the industry and that we retain the right skills to design and build the aircraft of the future.”

“These trials are an important step forward in our efforts to explore adaptable airframes. What we are seeking to do through this programme is truly ground-breaking,” said Bill Crowther, a senior academic and leader of the MAGMA project at The University of Manchester.

Additional technologies to improve the performance of the UAV are being explored in collaboration with the University of Arizona and the NATO Science and Technology Organisation.

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About the Author: Tracy Cozzens

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.