A drone developed with the backing of UK defense giant BAE Systems Plc has become the first plane since the dawn of aviation to be maneuvered without the aid of wing flaps.
The Magma model is flown by blowing air from its engine at supersonic speeds through slots in the wings. The technology is lighter, more reliable and cheaper to operate than conventional control surfaces, BAE says, as well as making the plane all but invisible on radar thanks to a reduced number of gaps and edges.
Built by researchers at Manchester University using titanium parts 3D-printed by BAE, the aircraft has made a series of flights from Llanbedr Airfield in north Wales, a specialist site for drone testing run by Snowdonia Aerospace LLP.
The Magma model also manoeuvers using thrust vectoring, in which exhaust gases in the engine itself are deflected
in different directions to aid
control. The plane and its technology could inform the development of Britain’s Future Combat Air System project, which is being led by BAE and includes the Tempest fighter model unveiled last year.