The University of Manchester (U.K.) and BAE Systems have completed first-phase flight trials with Magma – a small-scale unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) using a blown-air system to maneuver the aircraft – paving the way for lighter, stealthier, and more efficient aircraft.

The system eliminates complex, mechanical moving parts that move flaps to control the aircraft during flight.

Two technologies are being tested:

  • Wing circulation control – takes air from the aircraft engine and blows it supersonically through the wing trailing edge
  • Fluidic thrust vectoring – uses blown air to deflect engine exhaust, changing the aircraft’s direction.

The aim is to fly the aircraft without any moving control surfaces or fins – relying only on circulation control from a single gas turbine engine

Additional technologies to improve the performance of the UAV are being explored in collaboration with the University of Arizona and NATO Science and Technology Organization.;;;

US Navy receives first operational MQ-4C Triton

In November 2017, Northrop Grumman Corp. delivered the first operational MQ-4C Triton aircraft to the U.S. Navy facility at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, California.

The first operational MQ-4C Triton comes in for a landing at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, California. (U.S. Navy photo)

Point Mugu is home to the maintenance detachment of VUP-19, the Navy’s first unmanned patrol squadron. Operators will fly the unmanned Triton from VUP-19’s base at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida.

Northrop Grumman plans to deliver the second operational Triton aircraft to Point Mugu later in 2018, where maintainers will prepare the first two operational Triton aircraft for deployment to Guam.

The Navy later plans to deploy Triton to NAS Mayport, Florida; NAS Sigonella, Italy; and the Middle East.

Flying upwards of 55,000ft for up to 24 hours, Triton provides vessel detection, classification, and tracking. The program of record calls for Northrop Grumman to deliver 68 aircraft to the Navy.

US Air Force continues Orion UAS development

The U.S. Air Force has awarded a $48 million contract to Boeing company Aurora Flight Sciences for the continued development of the Orion unmanned aircraft system (UAS).

The contract funds the development of a certified version of Orion that can be deployed worldwide. The work will be performed in Columbus, Mississippi, and Manassas, Virginia.

Orion, a twin-engine, high-performance UAS, can stay aloft more than 100 hours with payloads exceeding 1,000 lb.

In December 2014, an Orion established the current UAS world endurance record with a flight of 80 hours, 2 minutes, and 52 seconds.

Small unmanned aerial system registration reinstated

In December 2017, the National Defense Authorization Act reinstated the requirement that small, unmanned aircraft weighing more than 0.55 lb (250g) and less than 55 lb (25kg) be registered with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Last year, a U.S. Court of Appeals struck down the rule compelling owners of small unmanned aerial systems (drones) used for recreation to register them under Code of Federal Regulations, Title 14, Part 107 (AM&D July 2017).;