Aircraft

BAE's latest UAV has no use for flaps

BAE's latest UAV has no use fo...
The MAGMA UAV has already completed the first phase of flight testing
The MAGMA UAV has already completed the first phase of flight testing
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The MAGMA UAV has already completed the first phase of flight testing
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The MAGMA UAV has already completed the first phase of flight testing
Instead of ailerons, the MAGMA's wings have a series of very narrow slots along their trailing edges
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Instead of ailerons, the MAGMA's wings have a series of very narrow slots along their trailing edges
A diagram explaining how the MAGMA's blown-air control system works
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A diagram explaining how the MAGMA's blown-air control system works

If you're trying to make an aircraft lighter, stealthier, faster, and easier to maintain, how about getting rid of the flaps on the wings and tail? That's what engineers from BAE Systems have done on a small scale, working with colleagues from The University of Manchester. The resulting MAGMA UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) is instead controlled by air blown from its single jet engine.

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.

BAE has previously used a similar system in the wings of its DEMON UAV.

In the rear, meanwhile, the engine exhaust blows out of a vent that has a curved lower surface. Ordinarily, the exhaust air tends to "stick" to that surface, following its curve and thus leaving the vent at a particular angle – this angle determines the aircraft's pitch. By blowing a jet of air straight up out of that surface and into the exhaust, however, it's possible to "unstick" it and change the angle at which the exhaust leaves – thus changing the pitch.

Known as fluidic thrust vectoring, the system is illustrated in the bottom of the diagram below.

A diagram explaining how the MAGMA's blown-air control system works
A diagram explaining how the MAGMA's blown-air control system works

"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," BAE states. "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."

It is hoped that the technology could ultimately find its way into full-scale military and civilian aircraft.

Source: BAE Systems

12 comments
flyerfly
As I pilot...this is a nice idea until the engine quits and you can no longer control the plane. I hope they come up with a good solution for that or else leave it only on UAV's or things with ballistic recovery chutes...even then if you have engine failure on takeoff you are done for if control is engine dependent.
pete2100
This is just like the Tesla Model 3 ventilation vents
Pro-Tography
I concur with flyerfly, unless some sort of back up system would be included (electric fan?) then this sounds a terrible idea. Any engine failure would result in the potential loss of the vehicle. At least with a dead stick in a traditional aircraft you have to be pretty unlucky to not be able to land safely.
Booleanboy
Loss of control in an engine - out situation was my immediate concern when I saw this. I suppose though that if we're talking about a relatively small, *relatively* inexpensive unmanned vehicle it might be considered an acceptable risk - unless you're on the ground beneath it when it fails!
Brian M
@flyerfly Suspect this is a control system that will be in addition to the more conventional elevons (combined Ailerons and elevator). Would still be beneficial in that the elevons would not be operational most of the time, so reduced drag etc.
ArminSachse
Not a pilot but I was going full throttle thru everglades on a seadoo which is steered in a similar manner with water jet and not a rudder. The engine sucked up some sand and quit. I could no longer turn the seadoo and crashed into a massive mangrove.
notarichman
would air from the engine prevent icing? or just icing near the outputs?
ei3io
The ideas for control in 'dead-stick' mode using fans means batteries & motors weight that must be essential weight for normal uses and not simply added weight waiting around for the "stick" to die. But there are other means to control with a dead-stick[engine] and no moving surfaces.
Paul Muad'Dib
I wounder why it has vertical stabilizers? Most UAVs that look like this one have no vertical stabilizers. They use spoilers at the trailing edge of the outboard part of the wing to control yaw because vertical stabilizers make the aircraft less stealthy. If you look at pictures of the B-2 in flight you can see the trailing edge spoilers are open on both sides. This UAV could have controlled yaw by blowing exhaust air out of one wing tip or the other eliminating the need for vertical stabilizers or spoilers and the drag they produce.
ProfessorWhat
At first I thought it would basically be a delta-winged cruise missile with thrust vector control, but I share everyone else's concerns that if this is going into pilot-passenger models it will need like a battery-bank-servo-flap emergency backup system?