UK adds thrust to flapless vehicle

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Programme to develop technologies for maintenance-free, low-cost UAV without conventional control surfaces

Fluidic thrust vectoring for pitch control will be tested next month using a Schübeler Vector II model aircraft, as part of the UK’s £6.2 million ($11.3 million) five-year flapless air vehicle integrated industrial research (FLAVIIR) programme.

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FLAVIIR is aimed at developing technologies for maintenance-free, low-cost unmanned air vehicles without conventional controlsurfaces and without a performance penalty over conventional craft.

Fluidic thrust vectoring involves the use of secondary jets that are aimed into the primary jet stream to vector thrust.

The engines are embedded in an airframe that has curved surfaces on either side of the primary and secondary jet exhausts.

The revectored thrust along the curved surface generates forces for pitch control. The test flight will follow ongoing windtunnel tests.

“After this Vector II flight we will test a generic type of X-45 planform. It will be a self-built model to be windtunnel tested in three weeks and flown in three months’ time,” says University of Manchester school of engineering’s senior aerospace lecturer William Crowther.

He is also leading Manchester’s FLAVIIR work. The FLAVIIR project, which began in 2004, is supported by BAE Systems and the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

FLAVIIR’s first three years are a research phase and the last two the demonstrator vehicle build and test phase.

The areas of research are aerodynamics, control systems, electromagnetics, manufacturing, materials, structures, numerical simulation and integration.

The programme is managed from Cranfield University, and includes nine other universities. They are Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Southampton, War­wick, the University of Wales at Swansea and York University.

ROB COPPINGER/LONDON