From the Wright Flyer, which made the first flight of an airplane at Kitty Hawk in 1903, to the very recent F-35 and Su-57, all planes today are steered and controlled using a control surface. aerodynamics, which alter the flow and direction of air flow to create or degrade lift and the resulting forces. While the technology and understanding of aerodynamics have evolved considerably over the past 118 years, the use of these control surfaces continues to complicate aircraft design and maintenance, and offer little scope for adaptation. to new needs, such as stealth for example. However, there is an alternative until now little exploited to control surfaces, based on the active control of aerodynamic flows, a field which seems to be of interest now. DARPA, the Innovation and R&D Agency of the Department of Defense American, who comes from entrust the British BAe, a pioneer in the field, with the Control of Revolutionary Aircraft with Novel Effectors research program (SKULL) to develop a demonstrator using these technologies.
Instead of modifying the air flow by moving moving surfaces, Active Flow Control employs other processes such as the injection of secondary flows allowing to re-orient the direction of the flow, and therefore to modify the flow. application of the resulting forces. This process has been used by BAe since 2017 as part of the MAGMA program, a 12-foot-span drone whose aerodynamic control surfaces have been replaced by 3 active flow control systems, one at the outlet of the reactor flow allowing to act as a vector thrust, the other two on each of the wings to act as ailerons and flaps. The possibilities offered by this new approach are numerous, whether it is to simplify the design and maintenance of devices, to reduce noise emissions or to increase stealth.
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