The MAGMA drone, made by BAE Systems, has design elements that could transform stealth tech permanently. The MAGMA drone has no aircraft control surfaces, so the drone’s shape is static the entire time it is flying. The aircraft does not use changes in the drone’s surface to control its flight, but relies on air jets.
You might think that some aircraft don’t use mechanical movement to fly, like airplanes—but even airplanes have moving parts to change the plane’s vertical movement (its pitch), and the plane’s horizontal movement (its yaw). These moving parts are usually elevators, ailerons, and elevators, though the majority of mechanical movement parts are either external devices on the wings, or internal mechanisms that are automated or controlled by the pilot.
These control surfaces have been important to aircraft control since the creation of the first aircraft. Despite their importance, they are often cumbersome and complicated to manipulate during flight, and can sometimes fail and lead to catastrophe. Their shapes also affect aircrafts’ stealth profile, because when the fins move, this movement can attract the attention of radar monitors.
The MAGMA’s technological innovations can help improve aircraft maneuverability and stealth, because the drone does not use the aforementioned rudders, elevators, and ailerons, and instead uses air jets that use air from the engine moving to the air jets in a cycle. This wing circulation control moves air from the extremely fast-moving air from the engine and moves it along the edge of the wing; fluidic thrust vectoring uses air jets to control the movement of the exhaust of the engine.
Both fluid thrust vectoring and wing circulation control use air to move the aircraft. By getting rid of the other aspects of mechanical control, like hydraulics, can make this new technology more affordable; this results in making aircraft that are cheaper and safer than conventional planes and aircraft. The technology in MAGMA also helps improve aircraft stealth, hiding it from radar technology.
As revolutionary as MAGMA tech is, it has still only been seen used in one drone during one flight. The drone also had no pilot, so it remains to be seen how pilot controls affect the technology. BAE Systems has made lofty claims as to what the new technology can accomplish, so hopefully the tech will find its way into more aircraft and eventually revolutionize the way aircraft move.