Aerodynamics 1

Module aims

Aerodynamics is one of the core pillars of aerospace engineering. This course will introduce aerodynamic essentials such as the basic laws of motion for incompressible fluid flow, conservation of mass and momentum and the role of viscosity. Control volume analysis will form the basis for work in following years and is used to explain aerodynamic phenomena such as generation of lift, drag and boundary layers.

Learning outcomes

 On successfully completing this module, you should be able to: 

1. Explain the basic principles of fluid flow including the role of viscosity and the importance of stresses and rates of strain;
2. Demonstrate understanding of the principles of conservation of mass and momentum balance for a fluid;
3. Describe flow in pipes and in boundary layers, including transition to turbulent flow;
4. Describe briefly flow around wings and the generation of lift, drag and trailing vortices;
5. Describe fluid flow mathematically in terms of control volume balances and the governing partial differential equations such as the Euler and Bernoulli equations;
6. Demonstrate understanding of the physical concepts of convection/transport, viscous diffusion and flow rotation/vorticity and how these concepts can be applied to flow in pipes and laminar boundary layers;
7. Appreciate the importance and limitations of experimental and numerical methods in aerodynamic design and analysis;
8. Undertake basic aerodynamic experiments using typical aerodynamic measurement techniques such as flow visualisation and pressure measurement.

Module syllabus

Principles of Fluid Flow: Stress, rate of strain, viscosity, normal and shear stress.
Flow over an Aerofoil: Lift, boundary layer stall.
The Atmosphere: Properties of the atmosphere.
Measurement Techniques: Measurement of static and total pressure.
Dimensional Analysis: Dimensionless coefficients, similarity parameters, Buckingham’s rule, Mach number and Reynolds number.
Conservation of Mass: Control volume analysis, conservation of mass in a compressible flow, incompressible flow, streamlines and stream functions.
Rotation of a Fluid Element: Vorticity, irrotational flow and Laplace’s equation.
Conservation of Momentum: Newton’s second law, Euler equations, Bernoulli’s equation, force on a nozzle.
Viscous Stresses: Skin friction, two-dimensional laminar boundary layer, boundary layer development, flat plate boundary layer, effect of pressure gradient, separation.
Internal Flow: Laminar flow in a two-dimensional duct, laminar flow in a circular cross-section pipe.
Turbulent Flow: Introduction to transition, turbulence, turbulent pipe flow.
Wings: Brief introduction to flow around wings, trailing vortices.

Teaching methods

The module will be delivered primarily through large-class lectures introducing the key concepts and methods, supported by a variety of delivery methods combining the traditional and the technological. The content is presented via a combination of slides, whiteboard and visualiser.

Learning will be reinforced through tutorial question sheets and laboratory exercises, featuring analytical, computational and experimental tasks representative of those carried out by practising engineers.


This module presents opportunities for both formative and summative assessment. 
You will be formatively assessed through progress tests and tutorial sessions.
You will have additional opportunities to self-assess your learning via tutorial problem sheets.
You will be summatively assessed by a written examination at the end of the module as well as through practical laboratory assessments and a written laboratory report.

Assessment type Assessment description Weighting Pass mark
Examination Written examination 80% 40%
Practical Laboratory practical 12% 40%
Coursework Laboratory report 8% 40%

You will receive feedback both during the laboratory sessions and following the coursework submission.
You will receive feedback on examinations in the form of an examination feedback report on the performance of the entire cohort.
You will receive feedback on your performance whilst undertaking tutorial exercises, during which you will also receive instruction on the correct solution to tutorial problems.
Further individual feedback will be available to you on request via this module’s online feedback forum, through staff office hours and discussions with tutors.

Reading list