Fylde scientists trialling flapless flight for aircraft

BAE Systems MAGMA unmanned aircraft which is trailing new ways to control jets in flight
BAE Systems MAGMA unmanned aircraft which is trailing new ways to control jets in flight
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BAE Systems engineers have teamed up with a university to look at new ways of controlling aircraft in the stealthy battle zone of the future.

They and the University of Manchester have successfully completed the first phase of flight trials with MAGMA – a small scale unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), which uses a blown-air system to manoeuvre the aircraft rather than traditional large control flaps on the wings of current jets.

The new concept for aircraft control removes the conventional need for complex, mechanical moving parts used to move flaps to control the aircraft during flight.

They say it could give greater control as well as reduce weight and maintenance costs, allowing for lighter, stealthier, faster and more efficient military and civil aircraft in the future.

The MAGMA will try out Wing Circulation Control, which takes air from the engine and blows it supersonically through the trailing edge of the wing to provide control for the aircraft and also Fluidic Thrust Vectoring, which uses blown air to deflect the exhaust, allowing the aircraft to change direction.

Further flight trials are planned for the coming months to demonstrate the novel 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.

Clyde Warsop, engineering fellow at 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.

“Our investment 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.”

Bill Crowther, leader of the MAGMA project at The University of Manchester, said: “What we are seeking to do through this programme is truly ground-breaking.”