MAGMA UAV achieves 'flap free flight' using supersonically blown air

LLANBEDR, United Kingdom - In a series of flight trials that took place in the skies above northwest Wales, the MAGMA unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) demonstrated two innovative flow control technologies which could revolutionize future aircraft design.

May 2nd, 2019
MAGMA UAV achieves 'flap free flight' using supersonically blown air
MAGMA UAV achieves 'flap free flight' using supersonically blown air
LLANBEDR, United Kingdom - In a series of flight trials that took place in the skies above northwest Wales, the MAGMA unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) demonstrated two innovative flow control technologies which could revolutionize future aircraft design.

MAGMA, designed and developed by researchers at The University of Manchester in collaboration with engineers from BAE Systems, successfully trialled the two "flap-free" technologies in April at the Llanbedr Airfield.

The technologies have been designed to improve the control and performance of aircraft. By replacing moving surfaces with a simpler "blown air" solution, the trials have paved the way for engineers to create better performing aircraft that are lighter, more reliable and cheaper to operate. The technologies could also improve an aircraft’s stealth as they reduce the number of gaps and edges that currently make aircraft more observable on radar.

“We are excited to have been part of a long-standing effort to change the way in which aircraft can be controlled, going all the way back to the invention of wing warping by the Wright brothers," said Bill Crowther, senior academic and leader of the MAGMA project at The University of Manchester. "It’s been a great project for students to be part of, highlighting that real innovation in engineering is more about finding practical solutions to many hundreds of small technical challenges than having single moments of inspiration."

The technologies demonstrated in the trials were:

  • Wing Circulation Control: Taking air from the aircraft engine and blowing it supersonically through narrow slots around a specially shaped wing tailing edge in order to control the aircraft.
  • Fluidic Thrust Vectoring: Controlling the aircraft by blowing air jets inside the nozzle to deflect the exhaust jet and generate a control force.

The trials form part of a long-term collaboration between BAE Systems, academia and the UK government to explore and develop flap-free flight technologies, and the data will be used to inform future research programmes. Other technologies to improve the aircraft performance are being explored in collaboration with NATO Science and Technology Organisation.

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