BAE Systems’ venture with the University of Manchester dedicated to the development of drones has successfully completed the trials of the MAGMA unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The trial demonstrated the vehicle’s “flap-free” flight technologies, making MAGMA the first vehicle in the history of aviation to be flown with the assistance of supersonically blown air. Supersonically blown air is a technology that simplifies the task of maneuvering an aircraft at low-speeds. Airplanes typically have wing flaps that are deployed to lift the plane during take-off and mid-flight when excess drag becomes necessary. These flaps can be extended and retracted as per the flight requirements and have complex structures owing to the numerous factors that affect its functions.
BAE and the University are working to simplify this feature and make it more compact to be employed in a UAV and are exploring the options of blown air technologies instead of conventional flap wings. The concept has been put to the test since World War II, but MAGMA’s blown air technology is different in the speed at which the air is delivered and also the size of the system it is engaged in. During the trials of the MAGMA, two such blown air technologies were demonstrated viz. Wind Circulation Control and Fluidic Thrust Vectoring. The Wing Circulation Control method takes air from the aircraft engine and blows it supersonically through narrow slots around a uniquely shaped wing tailing edge to control the aircraft. The Fluidic Test Vectoring controls the aircraft by blowing air jets inside the nozzle to deflect the exhaust jet and create a control force.
The blown air technologies have been developed by MAGMA team are the outcome of the collaboration between BAE Systems and the University of Manchester, in the project spearheaded by Bill Crowther. BAE will use the data collected during the MAGMA project in its future research projects and possibly for the development of a Future Combat Air System.