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DEMON UAV achieves historic first 'flapless flight'

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October 6, 2010

The DEMON UAV, that achieved flapless flight in Cumbria

The DEMON UAV, that achieved flapless flight in Cumbria

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An unmanned aerial vehicle named DEMON made history last month when it demonstrated “flapless flight” at an airfield in Cumbria, England. The demonstrator aircraft’s ailerons/elevators were locked off, allowing it to maneuver using nothing but a series of forced-air jets along the trailing edges of its wings. In the future, such technology could be applied to military or commercial aircraft.

DEMON was developed by aerospace company BAE Systems, Cranfield University, and nine other UK universities. It is part of BAE’s £6.2 million (US$9.85 million) FLAVIIR (Flapless Air Vehicle Integrated Industrial Research) program, and took five years to complete.

Its “fluidic flight control” system consists of an auxiliary power unit that supplies compressed air to a series of circulation control devices, located in the wings. These release the compressed air from slots along the top and bottom trailing edges of both wings, creating a “blade of air” immediately behind them. Using flight control algorithms to vary which slots the air comes out of (top or bottom, left or right), the roll direction of the plane can be determined.

The DEMON UAV, that achieved flapless flight in Cumbria

“What the FLAVIIR Team have achieved in such a short time is nothing short of remarkable,” said BAE’s Richard Williams. “I was in Cumbria to watch DEMON fly and I feel sure I have witnessed a significant moment in aviation history.”

Flapless aircraft would have several advantages over traditional planes, in that they would have fewer moving parts, require less maintenance and present a stealthier profile.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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6 Comments

I would be worried about the holes for the jets of air freezing shut in cold environments.

Skipjack
7th October, 2010 @ 06:09 am PDT

This is a new development of an old technology, interesting though.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blown_flap

PeetEngineer
7th October, 2010 @ 10:12 am PDT

Freezing shut is easy to overcome - electrical heating is now used on propellers and leading edges together with windows on many types of aircraft. It does not take much energy to warm to just above freezing. Some parts also might, alternatively or in combination with electric heating, have a rubber jacket which is flexed using air pressure or electro mechanical devices to break and shake off any ice.

This is a great advance. Should also mean less weight in the craft and less fuel consumption, power required or more payload.

ChoccyBoy
7th October, 2010 @ 11:24 am PDT

Last time when flying I wondered about the gaps between flaps and wings introducing turbulence and thus drag. may be the first step would be to cover those gaps with fabric?

Gerfried Hans
8th October, 2010 @ 10:22 am PDT

As with anything to do with bypass fan-jets, it would be simple to "syphon-off" some compressed air from each jet engine. Not only would this reduce hardware to create compressed air, as compression also tends to heat air up very quickly, taking care of any icing problems.

However, if the jet engines stop for whatever reason, the pilots would have absolutely NO control over the aircraft. None whatsoever.

So, that means that the compressed air must come from another source than the engines, and that just means more hardware and ducting to create, store and administer the compressed air to the appropriate outlets. I wonder if there would actually be any "gain". Hmmmmm.

Edwin Wityshyn
20th October, 2010 @ 01:56 pm PDT

a little mix of hot jet exhaust should take care of any icing.

Thomas Lewis
19th May, 2013 @ 03:37 am PDT
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