British engineers have developed the world’s first ”flapless” plane – that uses hundreds of tiny AIR JETS to control its movements.
The DEMON uses output from the jets to control airflow over the plane, manipulating lift and drag without using traditional flapping mechanisms to steer.
Its developers believe the technology could revolutionise the stealth capabilities of military aircraft by reducing edges and gaps that can be picked up on radar.
The technology could also reduce fuel and maintenance costs for commercial airliners.
DEMON, an unmanned air vehicle (UAV), was developed by a team of engineers at Manchester and Cranfield universities, together with aerospace giant BAE Systems.
Professor John Fielding, chief engineer and lead for the DEMON demonstrator team from Cranfield University, said: ”To make an aircraft fly and manoeuvre safely without the use of conventional control surfaces is an achievement in itself.
”To do that while at the same time bringing together new construction techniques and new control mechanisms could be said to be over-ambitious – but we have done it.
”The DEMON UAV has been developed within a research programme but it is a representative, complex, high technology aircraft.
”Gaining approval from the Civil Aviation Authority and flying it successfully has required great skill, dedication and patience by the team and they should be very proud of their achievement.”
The DEMON was developed around a concept called ”fluidic flight control” and is designed to forgo the use of conventional mechanical elevators and ailerons, or flaps.
It is instead manoeuvred by hundreds of tiny jets that blast air in order to influence to change the lift, drag and other features of performance.
The result is a more streamlined, aerodynamic craft that cuts down on edges and gaps – features that can increase radar detection.
These stealth characteristics give the aircraft greater ability to penetrate an enemy’s most sophisticated defences.
Additionally it cuts down the number of moving and electrical parts in both military and civil aircraft, affecting cost, reliability, weight, efficiency and maintenance.
The DEMON successfully made its maiden voyage on Walney Island off the Cumbrian coast on September 17th.
The trial flights were the first ‘flapless flights’ ever to be authorised by the UK Civil Aviation Authority.
DEMON was developed by the Flapless Air Vehicle Integrated Industrial Research (FLAVIIR) team, spread across nine universities and BAE.
Richard Williams, BAE Systems programme director for Future Capability, said: ”What the FLAVIIR Team have achieved in such a short time is nothing short of remarkable.
”I was in Cumbria to watch DEMON fly and I feel sure I have witnessed a significant moment in aviation history.
”What makes it even more poignant is that this is the result of British brains collaborating to produce world-leading technology.
”It, and other initiatives like it, will help ensure we maintain both a level of sovereign capability and a competitive edge.”