BAE Systems and the University of Manchester successfully complete first flight trial with MAGMA UAS

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BAE Systems and the University of Manchester have successfully completed the first phase of flight trials with a small scale UAS called MAGMA.

The flight trials are part of an ongoing project between the two entities, as well as a long-term collaboration between industry, academia and government to explore and develop innovative flight control technology.

“The technologies we are developing with the University of Manchester will make it possible to design cheaper, higher performance, next generation aircraft,” says Clyde Warsop, Engineering Fellow at BAE Systems.

“Our investment in research and development drives continued technological improvements in our advanced military aircraft, helping to ensure UK aerospace remains at the forefront of the industry and that we retain the right skills to design and build the aircraft of the future.”

MAGMA will be maneuvered using a “unique blown-air system.” BAE Systems says that the new concept for aircraft control “removes the conventional need for complex, mechanical moving parts used to move flaps to control the aircraft during flight.”

This concept could result in greater control of aircraft, and reduce costs related to weight and maintenance, which would allow for “lighter, stealthier, faster and more efficient military and civil aircraft in the future.”

Two technologies—Wing Circulation Control and Fluidic Thrust Vectoring—will be trialed using MAGMA.

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, while Fluidic Thrust Vectoring uses blown air to deflect the exhaust, which allows the aircraft’s direction to be changed.

With an ultimate goal in mind of flying the aircraft without any moving control surfaces or fins, more flight trials are planned for the coming months to showcase the novel flight control technologies.

Those tests will be deemed successful if they demonstrate the “first ever use of such circulation control in flight” on a gas turbine aircraft and from a single engine.

“These trials are an important step forward in our efforts to explore adaptable airframes,” says Bill Crowther, a senior academic and leader of the MAGMA project at The University of Manchester. “What we are seeking to do through this program is truly ground-breaking.”