The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has contracted BAE Systems to design an aircraft active flow control (AFC) technology, eliminating conventional flight control surfaces such as ailerons, rudders, and flaps.
According to the Defense Systems Information Analysis Center, the new technology, which doesn’t have any moving parts, “adds energy or momentum to airflow in a regulated manner, and can be turned on or off as necessary.” BAE Systems adds that the new technology will “enable improved performance, maintainability, and survivability.”
BAE Tests AFC-enabled Aircraft
As part of DARPA’s Control of Revolutionary Aircraft with Novel Effectors (CRANE) project, the Farnborough-based defense manufacturer revealed that it will build on the MAGMA unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) it demonstrated two years ago.
The MAGMA aircraft, designed and developed by researchers at The University of Manchester in collaboration with engineers from BAE, used “blown air” and AFC technologies during its flight trials in May 2019.
Upgrade Over Current Technology
The defense manufacturer stated that “the technologies could also improve an aircraft’s stealth as they reduce the number of gaps and edges that currently make aircraft more observable on the radar.”
According to BAE, the AFC technology is not only more efficient than previous methods of flight control but also “reduces mass and volume compared to aircraft with conventional controls to enable greater payloads and greater flexibility to the operator.”