Flapless Flight

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;

  1. To develop technologies to deliver a maintenance-free Unmanned Air Vehicle without conventional control surfaces with no cost or performance penalties.
  2. 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.



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paul g
October 3, 2010 9:00 pm

as monty python would say “it’s only a model”!! still in a week when the F-35 gets grounded with major software issues it seems the british shed eccentric strikes again.

October 3, 2010 9:03 pm

That is so clever. Our American allies have done a lot of harm to our air craft industry. When you look back at Saunders-Roe ‘planes scuppered because of the Starfighter. The offer of F111 that helped scupper TSR2. No wonder there was not much fight when it came to cancelling Blue Streak/Black Arrow and look at how well the French are doing with satellite launching (on the back of “our” research.)

It would be nice to think in 15 years there will be FAA UCAV using this tech’ taking off from the decks of RN CATOBAR carriers to frustrate the knavish tricks of Her Majesty’s enemies.

Flapless though? Well as a name it just doesn’t, well, fly…

October 3, 2010 9:05 pm

@ paul g

From Palin’s Ripping Yarns;

Mr. Ellis: [in woodwork class] What is that, Tomkinson?
Tomkinson: [standing before an enormous ship he’s assembling] It’s a model icebreaker, sir.
Mr. Ellis: It’s a bit big for a model, isn’t it?
Tomkinson: It’s a full-scale model, sir.
Mr. Ellis: [annoyed] It’s not a model if it’s full-scale, Tomkinson, it’s an icebreaker.
Tomkinson: Yes, it’s good, isn’t it, sir? It’s got three engines, an enormous…
Mr. Ellis: No no no, that’s not the point. That is not a model. It’ll be hell if this comes out at speech day exhibition. You’re a very stupid boy building icebreakers like this, Tomkinson.
Tomkinson: [deflated] Yes, sir.
Mr. Ellis: Now I won’t say anything to the headmaster if you can get it down to a minimum of four foot.
Tomkinson: But sir! There’s fifteen hundred tons of steel in this…
Mr. Ellis: Do you want to come and see the headmaster with me?
Tomkinson: No, sir.
Mr. Ellis: Well, melt it down at once.

Richard Stockley
Richard Stockley
October 3, 2010 10:01 pm

“You see, the UK can still bloody well innovate in aeronautics.”

Innovation has never been a problem for the UK, where we seem to fall down is the development of the final product into something that’s really useful. I’m thinking of the Harrier at this point, it took a big injection of US money before it became the AV-8B.

13th spitfire
October 3, 2010 10:16 pm

We must surely constitute the most naive and dumbest country on the face of this earth, and yet at the same time also the most brilliant. Bloody annoying it is.

October 4, 2010 10:25 am

Dont thrust vectoring engines require additional maintenance?

Richard Stockley
Richard Stockley
October 5, 2010 2:39 pm

With regards to the Demon‘s ‘Blown’ controls, blown controls are nothing new older aircraft like the Buccaneer and the MiG-21 relied heavily on them and the Hunting H.126 carried out dedicated research during the 1960’s. The difference with the Demon is that it has both sets as alternative controls. The only problem with blown controls is that if you lose the engine, you lose control due to the level of air pressure required, although you do have conventional controls as a back up. The way I see it is that the blown controls can allow a ‘super stealth’ mode. As the movement of the conventional controls reduce the inherent stealth features in the airframe and increase the chance of detection, keeping them still keeps a stealth aircraft stealthy during its manoeuvre envelope.


Technically, any part of anything that flies requires maintenance to a certain degree, even its only a visual inspection/cleaning of the fuselage, but yes you’re right.

October 7, 2010 9:40 pm

I don’t see £6.2 million being a shoestring budget for what rather than being a sophisticated UAV is essentially a radio-controlled plane designed and built using advanced engineering techniques. I would have expected a bit more for the money. Nevertheless, it’s actually nice though to see that British companies and universities are inventive enough to come up with concepts without any input from a cash-strapped government, SDSR or no SDSR. Now all we need to do is sell the idea to the Americans.

October 8, 2010 8:05 am

£6.2m might sound a lot, but its actuly a mere 5 minutes of government spending.
We already have some very sophisticated UAV self piloting systems, that wasnt the target of the research.
Mesh the two together, add a weapons system, and we have a VIFFing jet fighter that doesnt need a pilot (and his extraordinary training costs).

Richard Stockley
Richard Stockley
October 8, 2010 11:40 am

Steve, re:£6.2million, if this was the car industry you’d spend that and more on the indicator stalk. Given the companies involved, the brains and computing power, in addition to wind tunnel costs, for a proof of concept vehicle it seems pretty reasonable. Plus there’s lots of tangible costs that we as observers can’t see, such as the spike alignment for the stealth airframe. Things like that don’t come cheap.