New Drone Features Advanced Stealth Capabilities Thanks to Lack of Moving Surface Parts

Even though most aircraft appear unmoving during flight, various small parts actually shift to allow the plane to be steered while in the air. While the ailerons, elevators, and rudders are functional, these mechanical devices change the shape of the craft, making it easier to detect. A new stealth drone removes these concerns, operating without moving surface parts.

The MAGMA drone, a creation of BAE Systems, features a new design that is free of moving parts along the surface. This allows the aircraft to maintain its shape during flight, making it stealthier than its predecessors.

Instead of using mechanical surface components to steer the plane, the MAGMA drone harnesses blown air to change its direction during flight through two technologies: wing circulation control and fluidic thrust vectoring. Not only does this make it harder to detect, but it also alleviates other issues, like mechanical failures that affect maneuverability, that can have catastrophic consequences when the aircraft is airborne.

An internal system redirects air from blowers and the engine, giving the pilot the ability to steer the drone simply by manipulating the airflow around the aircraft. The lack of hydraulic controls, replaced by a series of air ducts and blowers, also make the technology cheaper to build and maintain. Since there are fewer moving parts that could fail while the plane is in the air, it is likely to be safer as well.

So far, the MAGMA drone has completed a single test flight, which was deemed a success.

Current stealth technology, including systems on the F-22 Raptor, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and B-2 Spirit, still uses mechanical surface parts. When the aircrafts are steered, small fin-like devices move on the planes, momentarily changing the profile of the airplane and making it slightly more vulnerable to detection on radar.

The new approach is a major advancement over the mechanical processes that are currently in use, particularly since they have remained largely unchanged over the past century, according to Popular Mechanics. If the technology is as robust as BAE Systems claims, the MAGMA drone may revolutionize stealth flight, becoming a new standard in stealth aircraft design at a rapid pace.