Replacing the conventional flight control surfaces of an aircraft is what Aurora Flight Sciences is aiming at through a contract sponsored by DARPA (US Research and development agency). The goal is to develop the tools and technology to include this new type of aircraft control from the primary design of an aircraft and to build a technology demonstrator.
An experimental aircraft without conventional control surfaces
Aurora Flight Sciences, a subsidiary of Boeing, is seeking to develop an experimental aircraft under a new contract with Darpa (Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency). This experimental aircraft aims to demonstrate the possibility of using Active Flow Control (AFC) during the primary design of an aircraft.
Developing tools and technologies for the future
As part of DARPA's Control of Revolutionary Aircraft with Novel Effectors (CRANE) programme, Aurora is under contract for phase 0 in partnership with Boeing and the University of Arizona. The team will develop tools and technologies to integrate the AFC in the early stages of the aircraft design to later demonstrate their capabilities on an experimental aircraft.
Modifying the flow to control the aircraft
The goal is to getting rid of the ailerons, the empennage as well as the flaps, of all the traditional control surfaces by actuators or effectors, which will modify the aerodynamic flow of the aircraft by mechanical actuators, or by ejection or suction of the air on a wing, a fuselage, an air inlet or a nozzle. The benefits would be : firstly in terms of the design and construction of the aircraft, which would be simplified. But also in terms of aerodynamics, which would most likely see its finesse increase and consequently its fuel consumption decrease. Finally, such a system would see the end of complex and heavy flight controls with gearboxes, electro-hydraulic systems requiring know-how and specific, redundant circuits. These would be replaced by light systems without moving parts.
During phase 0, Aurora will spend a year studying AFC-compatible designs in several mission areas in order to identify a demonstrator concept based on an experimental aircraft. Phase 1 will follow with the preliminary design of this same technology demonstrator.