MAGMA: Work on flapless flight is taking off with initial flight trial success

MAGMA: Work on flapless flight is taking off with initial flight trial success
(Tech Xplore)—BAE Systems and Manchester University announced completion and success of its first flight trial of the unmanned aerial vehicle, MAGMA. Further flight trials are planned for the coming months to demonstrate the flight control technologies.

With MAGMA's successful completion of the initial trials, said The Engineer, "Efforts toward flapless have taken off."

This UAV will use a blown-air system to maneuver the . Reports say this could pave the way for future designs.

The flight trials are part of an ongoing project. It involves the two organizations and wider long-term collaboration between industry, academia and government, said the company release.

The buzz is mostly fixed on MAGMA's system, whereby mechanical 'flaps' have been dropped in favor of another approach. Namely, two technologies using the jet-powered UAV, MAGMA, are:

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

Design features could translate into greater control, reduced weight, and stealthier aircraft. Ben Coxworth, New Atlas, commented on the control function: "Instead of ailerons, the MAGMA's wings have a series of very narrow slots along their trailing edges. Some of the exhaust air is diverted from the engine, and exits those slots at supersonic speed. Utilizing this setup, it's possible to control the UAV's roll simply by controlling how much air is blown out of which wing at what time."

Brian Oldfield, BAE Systems, said MAGMA is a 4m wingspan vehicle weighing 40kg in its conventional control state but will weigh 45kg when modified to have flow control devices integrated into it, according to The Engineer.

Bill Crowther, leader of the MAGMA project at University of Manchester, said the project goal was to develop a large model scale flying demonstrator for novel aerospace technologies relevant to next generation low observable aircraft.

The U.S. Air Force has an explanation of what is meant by the phrase "low observable" aircraft.

"Advances in technology allow us to carry out aircraft missions without being detected, but it takes a skilled human touch to ensure the technology is properly in place. It's the job of Low Observable Aircraft Structural Maintenance specialists to design, fabricate and modify unique metals and bonded materials that create the stealth effect. From first application to repairing structural damage, these experts make sure aircraft can continually complete their missions completely undetected."

What's next?

According to Brian Oldfield, wrote The Engineer, the next steps for MAGMA are to fly and (1) understand the effectiveness of the trailing edge and fluidic thrust vectoring devices, and (2) understand whether control surfaces, such as the fin, could be reduced in size or removed.

The ultimate goal: flying the aircraft without any moving control surfaces or fins, if successful, would mark "the first ever use of such in flight on a gas turbine aircraft and from a single engine."


Explore further

Showcase UAV demonstrates 'Flapless Flight'

More information: www.baesystems.com/en/article/ … -magma-flight-trials

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Dec 15, 2017
Harks back to the P1127 / Harrier with its 'puffer' jets for VTOL control ?

Dec 15, 2017
now they just need to combine the gas jets with rocket thrusters...

Dec 15, 2017
If the engine fails though it's going to fall completely uncontrolled unless it is balanced to glide down somehow.

Dec 16, 2017
Layout reminds me of the HP 117.

Dug
Dec 16, 2017
24volts gets to the heart of the matter. No engine function - no control. This means that the craft will have to have mechanical aileron (drag flaps) and rudder equivalent controls concealed within surface of the aircraft. High temperature jet exhaust routed through the air frame is a engineering materials spec. nightmare. Would a lower temperature engine powered/non-exhaust compressed air system not be a better option? Perhaps the simplest solution is a completely nose operated rotating nozzle system that controls pitch and yaw where it would have the greatest leverage on the aircraft attitude - not unlike what is already done in controlling space vehicles.

Dec 16, 2017
Would they just bleed air from the compressor, pre-burners ? Safer, too...

Dec 18, 2017
If the engine fails though it's going to fall completely uncontrolled unless it is balanced to glide down somehow.


Are you sure? Even without the engine working, the intake is still taking in air, and that air can still be diverted to the control surfaces some extent. Reminds me of Formula 1, where some solutions of completely passive distribution of air via channels to aerodynamic surfaces has been used recently. This aircraft would have active control of the flow; altough tricky, I think it should be feasible to retain limited control without the engine.

Dug
Dec 18, 2017
Without additional energy input from the engine - there will be less energy from captured air than the resistance of the air on the aircraft surfaces - meaning insufficient force to achieve directional change. You may also note that due to the stealth configuration the engine intake does not act like a ram intake as in old jet aircraft. So, no - so there is no passive mechanism to intake air and develop sufficient -pressure force to control the air craft attitude and direction. (This is probably why "if successful" phrase is used.) There is some question that the system in question will also produce sufficient control at turbine lower speeds (like on approach for landing and or air refueling). Mechanical popup drag flaps would seem to be the most simple/reliable and most effective no or low engine function solution. Stealth might be lost if and or when drag flaps were engaged. If the plane has lost power and it power can't be re initiated - stealth becomes rather moot - when crashed.

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