Let's back up for a moment. Aircraft change their position in flight by changing the positions of various small surfaces primarily on the wings and the vertical stabilizer. A "typical" configuration looks like this:
The main drawback to all this is mechanical (or electrical) complexity which in turn brings maintenance and weight issues. "Fly by wire", followed by "fly by light", are terms that come from replacing mechanical linkages; that is, cables on pulleys, first with electrically controlled activation of the surface, then with fiber optic command activation. Instead, these researchers intend to control the aircraft by blowing air from the engine in the right directions and places
Magma Aviation Project is a new concept that will remove the complex moving parts, and reduce the weight and maintenance costs needed for aircraft to manipulate the air. As a result, aircraft will be able to travel quieter and more efficient. The project looks to accomplish this feat without any control surfaces—no ailerons, flaps, or tails.The test vehicle, the Magma drone, flew its first successful test flight on December 13.
Two key technologies allow the aircraft to manipulate air differently. First, the aircraft will have wing circulation control. This siphons the air from the aircraft’s jet engine and dispels it at supersonic speed through the trailing edge over the back of the wing, proving lift control. It eliminates the need for any mechanical moving surfaces. The second technological advantage is fluidic thrust vectoring. By using jets of air, the aircraft can deflect the exhaust and change the aircraft’s direction.
Clyde Warsop, Engineering Fellow here at BAE Systems, said: “The technologies we are developing with The University of Manchester will make it possible to design cheaper, higher performance, next generation aircraft.”I was unable to find a better (bigger, more legible) version of the graphic from the original source Machine Design article which describes what the system does.
It occurs to me that flaps are most needed during takeoff and landing, but during takeoff is a bad time to take some of the engine thrust to do anything else. While commercial aircraft are rated to perform a safe takeoff and landing if one of their two engines dies at the worst moment, adding more thrust requirements for the tiny amount of time of takeoff might be the point of diminishing returns.
File this away as something to keep an eye on. Flapless demo aircraft have flown before, I just don't find evidence that aircraft without ailerons have flown before. It seems revolutionary.