BAE Systems has made a bit of aviation history by maneuvering the first aircraft in flight using supersonically blown air instead of ailerons or other control surfaces. Taking to the skies over Llanbedr Airfield in Gwynedd, northwest Wales, the wing-shaped Magma UAV makes use of two new "flap-free" technologies that the company says could one day revolutionize aircraft design.
Today, 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. Despite over a century of development, it's a very crude system that is inefficient and depends on complex, expensive, heavy mechanical parts in order to work.
Developed by BAE in collaboration with the University of Manchester and the British government, Magma replaces control surfaces with a simpler "blown air" technology that controls the flow of air over the wings with supersonic puffs of air from the inside.