You see, the UK can still bloody well innovate in aeronautics.
In all the pre SDSR doom and gloom this caught my eye. In a collaborative venture between BAe Systems, Universities of Cranfield, Leicester, Liverpool, Nottingham, Southampton, Manchester, Wales Swansea, York and Imperial College the Flapless Aerial Vehicle Integrated Interdisciplinary Research Programme (FLAVIIR) seeks to;
- To develop technologies to deliver a maintenance-free Unmanned Air Vehicle without conventional control surfaces with no cost or performance penalties.
- Significant research impact through effective academic/industry management and exploitation of large scale, integrated academic research.
On a shoestring budget of £6.2million over 5 years the programme has recently flown its first prototype.
The Demon UAV, an adapted BAE Systems Eclipse, relies on a thrust vectoring exhaust nozzle and blown air over the trailing edge of the wing to deliver the aerodynamic forces and moments normally provided by flaps, ailerons and elevators. This is an important milestone, the value of being able to manoeuvre without mechanical control surfaces is in a reduction of maintenance, cost and an improvement in stealth and manoeuvreability.
The challenge now is to move beyond development and to prove it is a viable production concept.