BAE’s “flap-free” aircraft MAGMA successfully took the first flight

World's first
World's first "flap-free" aircraft maneuvered by blown air takes flight (Credit: BAE Systems)

BAE Systems, a British multinational defense, security, and aerospace company announced on 2nd May that it has successfully performed the first flight trials of the MAGMA unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

They demonstrated two innovative flow control technologies which could revolutionize future aircraft design. It was a very first time when an aircraft takes a flight using supersonically blown air, removing the need for complex movable flight control surfaces.

The engineers from BAE systems and the researchers at The University of Manchester was teamed up to developed MAGMA which actually controlled by the air blown from its single jet engine, getting rid of the flaps on the wings and tail.

Features of the Magma technology(Credit: BAE Systems)
Features of the Magma technology(Credit: BAE Systems)

By replacing moving surfaces with a simpler ‘blown air’ solution, the trials have paved the way for engineers to create better-performing aircraft that are lighter, more reliable and cheaper to operate.

Most conventional aircraft rely on a complex array of flaps, ailerons, elevators, rudders, and other control surfaces in order to fly in anything other than a straight line. Hence the system remains dependent on the complex, expensive, heavy mechanical parts in order to work.

We are excited to have been part of a long-standing effort to change the way in which aircraft can be controlled, going all the way back to the invention of wing warping by the Wright brothers,” said Bill Crowther, senior academic and leader of the MAGMA project at The University of Manchester. “It’s been a great project for students to be part of, highlighting that real innovation in engineering is more about finding practical solutions to many hundreds of small technical challenges than having single moments of inspiration.”

According to BAE, the Magma technology has the potential to improve both the control and the performance of aircraft that would be lighter, cheaper, and more reliable. In addition, by removing the gaps and edges of conventional control surfaces, the aircraft becomes stealthier by making them less radar reflective.