First Flight: BAE's Magma ‘Blown-air’ Technology Demonstrator

IndraStra Global

First Flight: BAE's Magma ‘Blown-air’ Technology Demonstrator

By IndraStra Global News Team

First Flight: BAE's Magma ‘Blown-air’ Technology Demonstrator


On May 2, 2019, BAE Systems has flown its Magma 'Blown-air' Technology Demonstrator (a  sub-scale unmanned aerial vehicle - UAV) for the first time over the skies above north-west Wales. First time in history, an aircraft has been maneuvered in flight using supersonically blown air, removing the need for complex movable flight control surfaces. It is developed in partnership with the University of Manchester.

The technologies demonstrated in the trials were:

Wing Circulation Control: Taking air from the aircraft engine and blowing it supersonically through narrow slots around a specially shaped wing tailing edge in order to control the aircraft.

Fluidic Thrust Vectoring: Controlling the aircraft by blowing air jets inside the nozzle to deflect the exhaust jet and generate a controlled force.

According to Julia Sutcliffe, Chief Technologist & Head of Engineering Strategy at BAE Systems, “MAGMA is a great example of how collaborating with bright minds at British universities can deliver ground-breaking research and innovation. Our partnership with The University of Manchester has identified cutting-edge technology, in this case, flap-free flight, and turned what began as a feasibility study into a proven capability in just a number of months. It demonstrates how STEM can be applied in the real world and I hope the success of these trials inspires the next generation of much-needed engineers and scientists.”

Bill Crowther, a reader at Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering Division/School of Mechanical, Aerospace & Civil Engineering and leader of the MAGMA project at The University of Manchester, added: “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. 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.

“The partnership with BAE Systems has allowed us the freedom as a university to focus on research adventure, with BAE Systems providing the pathway to industrial application. We made our first fluidic thrust vectoring nozzle from glued together bits of plastic and tested it on a hair drier fan nearly 20 years ago. Today BAE Systems is 3D printing our components out of titanium and we are flight testing them on the back of a jet engine in an aircraft designed and built by the project team. It doesn’t get much better than that.”

According to company's press release, "These trials form part of a long-term collaboration between BAE Systems, academia and the UK government to explore and develop flap-free flight technologies, and the data will be used to inform future research programmes. Other technologies to improve aircraft performance are being explored in collaboration with NATO Science and Technology Organisation."

BAE's Magma ‘Blown-air’ Technology Demonstrator