BAE Systems and the University of Manchester, UK, have successfully completed the first flight trial of the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), MAGMA. The small-scale UAV maneuvers by means of a unique blown-air system. The new concept for aircraft control being demonstrated removes the conventional need for complex, mechanical moving parts used to move flaps to control the aircraft during flight. The attendant improvement in control and reduced weight and maintenance costs could translate into lighter, stealthier, faster and more efficient military and civil aircraft in the future.
The jet-powered UAV will trial Wing Circulation Control, which takes air from the aircraft engine and blows it supersonically through the trailing edge of the wing to provide control. Fluidic Thrust Vectoring, which uses blown air to deflect the exhaust and allow for a change in aircraft direction, will also be tested.
MAGMA is a 4-m wingspan vehicle weighing 40 kg in its conventional control state but will weigh 45 kg when modified by flow control device integration. A modified Hawk 240-N gas turbine engine supplies bleed air to the control devices.
Additional flight trials are planned 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 ever use of such circulation control in flight on a gas turbine aircraft and from a single engine.