Drone Has No Control Surfaces

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BAE Systems and the University of Manchester have flown a stealthy drone that has no movable control surfaces and therefore does not change shape at all in flight. The MAGMA drone uses blown air to change aerodynamics and allow three-axes control. The most obvious benefit from the innovation is that there is no deflection of control surfaces to reflect radar but there may be some advantages to the flying barn doors that most aircraft represent to radar. The new system is apparently a lot simpler than the collection of mechanical devices that now manipulate airflow around flying surfaces.

The system uses bleed air to change the physics of the air moving over the wings and stabilizers and does it in two ways. Wing circulation control blows supersonic streams of engine air at the trailing edge of the wing to change the flow of air. Thrust vectoring adds the other element of control. BAE says aircraft using its technology will be cheaper to build and maintain and be safer and easier to fly. “These trials are an important step forward in our efforts to explore adaptable airframes,” said project leader Bill Crowther. “What we are seeking to do through this program is truly groundbreaking.”

Comments (5)

I wonder what they've got in mind for when the engine quits.

Posted by: Bob Key | December 17, 2017 8:53 AM    Report this comment

Maybe a Cirrus Solution.
Or maybe the bird HAS movable control surfaces, but doesn't employ them - UNTIL the engine(s) quit.
It should be a real piece of work when attempting to land in gusty crosswinds.
Gotta love the ersatz windscreens, though.

Posted by: Tom Yarsley | December 17, 2017 2:00 PM    Report this comment

A quick search found that this was already done in the UK almost 10 years ago.
RCS systems have been around an awfully long time.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | December 18, 2017 7:00 AM    Report this comment

"I wonder what they've got in mind for when the engine quits."

An ejection seat if piloted + smoking hole in the ground.

If a UAS, a smoking hole in the ground.

Posted by: Donald Romani | December 18, 2017 8:20 AM    Report this comment

Probably twin engines.

Posted by: Bruce Campbell | December 18, 2017 2:58 PM    Report this comment

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