Modern aircraft rely on flight control surfaces to affect their path through the air and this arrangement is typically a mix of linkages, mechanisms and digital systems. Attempting to revolutionize the field is a joint-development between British defence powerhouse BAe Systems and the University of Manchester who are working on the unmanned "Magma" air vehicle technology demonstrator. Development of the aircraft has been ongoing since about 2002.
The product is being used to collect data on the "blown-air" flight control concept in which engine bleed is harnessed to affect wing lifting properties (the supersonic-rated air is blown through the trailing edge control surfaces). It is hoped that the advancement may replace more complex control surface arrangements currently dictating schemes in modern combat (and civilian) aircraft - perhaps someday eliminating the need for any control surfaces whatsoever. Furthermore, the aircraft's thrust output is managed through a "fluidic" vector thrust control system.
In its current state, Magma exhibits a near-flying-wing planform with a general overall shape akin to an arrowhead. The vehicle also relies on blended wing-body shaping for ultimate aerodynamic efficiency. Over the rear of the body is a pair of outward-canted vertical tail fins. In a future revision of the product, the vertical tailplanes will be removed to make the air vehicle a true flying wing design. A traditional wheeled tricycle undercarriage is used for ground-running.
First flight of the Magma air vehicle was in September 2017 over Llanbedr, Wales. The aircraft is a technology demonstrator from the outset but its development will no doubt forge concepts and design approaches for future combat platforms.