Aerospace Vehicle Design MSc


MSc in Aerospace Vehicle Design (AVD)

The MSc in Aerospace Vehicle Design (AVD) aims to build knowledge on the design of flying vehicles such as aircraft, missiles, airships and spacecraft. This course provides a taught engineering programme with a focus on the technical, business and management aspects of aircraft design in the civil and military aerospace sectors.

Teaching integrates a range of disciplines required by modern aircraft design, for example:

  • Structural design and analysis
  • Aircraft systems design
  • Avionic systems design
  • Propulsion
  • Flight performance
  • Aspects of manufacture
  • Operations and cost.

Three options are available for students to select from in order to enable them to specialise in their particular area of interest:

Watch the MSc course video: From a Course Director and student's perspective (YouTube)

Watch the MSc course video: From a student's point of view (YouTube)

Course overview

All options of this course include a taught component and an individual thesis. The Avionics and Aircraft Design options also include a group project.

In addition to management, communication, team work and research skills, each student will attain at least the following outcomes from this degree course:

  • To build upon knowledge to enable students to enter a wide range of aerospace and related activities concerned with the design of flying vehicles such as aircraft, missiles, airships and spacecraft.  
  • To ensure that the student is of immediate use to their employer and has sufficient breadth of understanding of multi-discipline design to position them for accelerated career progression.
  • To provide teaching that integrates the range of disciplines required by modern aircraft design.
  • To provide the opportunity for students to be immersed in a 'Virtual Industrial Environment' giving them hands-on experience of interacting with and working on an aircraft design project.

Group project

The extensive group design project is a distinctive and unique feature of this course. This teamwork project takes place from October to March, and recreates a virtual industrial environment bringing together students with various experience levels and different nationalities into one integrated design team.

Each team member is given responsibility for the detailed design of a significant part of the aircraft, for example, forward fuselage, fuel system, or navigation system. The project will progress from the conceptual phase through to the preliminary and detail design phases. You will be required to run project meetings, produce engineering drawings and detailed analyses of your design. Problem solving and project coordination must be undertaken on a team and individual basis. At the end of the project, groups are required to report and present findings to a panel of 200 senior engineers from industry.  

This element of the course is both realistic and engaging, and places the student group in a professional role as aerospace design engineers. Students testify that working as an integrated team on real problems is invaluable and prepares them well for careers in a highly competitive industry.

Students following the Structural Design option do not participate in the Group Design Project.

Watch past presentation videos to give you a taster of our innovative and exciting group projects (YouTube) 

Individual Project

The individual research project aims to provide the training necessary for you to apply knowledge from the taught element to research, and takes place from March to September. The project may be theoretical and/or experimental and drawn from a range of topics related to the course and suggested by teaching staff, your employer or focused on your own area of interest.  

Recent Individual Research Projects include:

  • Fin Structure Aeroelastic Warping Effect
  • Modelling of Helicopter Crash Behaviour
  • Shock Load Simulation on Aircraft Structures
  • Crack Stoppers and Fail Safety in Integral Metal Structures
  • Impact Damage of Composite Laminates
  • Composite Panel Cut Out and Edge Reinforcement
  • Repair of Composite Structures.


The taught programme for the Aerospace Vehicle Design masters is generally delivered from October to March. Modules for each option vary; please see individual course descriptions for compulsory modules which must be undertaken. In addition, students have an extensive choice of optional modules to match specific interests.


  • Fundamentals of Aircraft System Identification
    Module LeaderDr Mudassir Lone - Research Fellow/Lecturer
    • Basic Systems and Estimation Theory
    • Regression Methods
    • Maximum Likelihood Methods
    • Frequency Domain Methods
    • Flight Test Design and Flight Data Analysis.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On the completion of this module the diligent student will be able to:

    • Apply available mathematical tools to derive flight dynamic models from flight test data
    • Plan a flight test sortie to obtain flight test data most suited for system identification
    • Describe and categorise methods of system and parameter identification based on the desired mathematical model.


Please see individual course pages for each MSc option for a breakdown of assessment.

Start date, duration and location

Start date: March or October

Duration: Full-time MSc - one year

Teaching location: Cranfield


We have been at the forefront of postgraduate education in aerospace engineering since 1946. Aerospace Vehicle Design at Cranfield University was one of the original foundation courses of the College of Aeronautics. Graduates of this course are eligible to join the Cranfield College of Aeronautics Alumni Association (CCAAA), an active community which hold a number of networking and social events throughout the year.

One unique feature of the course is that we have four external examiners; two from industry who assess the group design project and two from academia who assess the individual research project.

Cranfield University is very well located for students from all over the world, and offers a range of library and support facilities to support your studies. This enables students from all over the world to complete this qualification whilst balancing work/life commitments. 

This MSc programme benefits from a wide range of cultural backgrounds which significantly enhances the learning experience for both staff and students.

Accreditation and partnerships

This course is accredited by:

  • Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS)
  • Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE).

Informed by industry

The course has an Industrial Advisory Committee with senior members from major UK aerospace companies, government bodies, and the military services. The committee meets twice a year to review and advise on course content, acquisition skills and other attributes are desirable from graduates of the course. Panel members include:

  • BAE Systems
  • Airbus
  • Royal Air Force
  • Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform
  • Royal Australian Air Force
  • Messier-Dowty
  • Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces.

Your teaching team

You will be taught by Cranfield's leading experts in aerospace. The Course Directors for the MSc Aerospace Vehicle Design are:

  • Aaron Latty, a Mechanical Engineer with experience in structural design of aircraft components.
  • Dr Shijun Guo,who has been working in the field of aircraft structures, especially structural dynamics and aeroelasticity, since the 1980’s.

The teaching on some taught modules is supported by lectures from visiting speakers from both industry and the military. Former speakers have included senior representatives from:

  • Boeing
  • Airbus
  • BAE Systems
  • Eurocopter.

Facilities and resources

Students can take advantage of our impressive facilities at Cranfield, which include large aircraft flight simulator, a flying experience with our Bulldog aircraft, and the National Flying Laboratory Centre (NFLC) Jetstream aircraft in which onboard monitors give you first-hand experience of the theory from a pilot’s perspective.

We use industry-standard software such as NASTRAN. Our rapid prototyping machine enables you to manufacture wind tunnel models from CATIA (Computer Aided Three-dimensional Interactive Application). Our Virtual Reality Suite enables you to design the flight deck and cabin layout in 3D. We also arrange visits to sites such as BAE Systems, Marshall Aerospace, GKN and RAF bases which specialise in the maintenance of military aircraft. This allows you to get close to aircraft and components to help with ideas for the group project.

Cranfield University offer a comprehensive library and information service, and are committed to meeting the needs of students, creating a comfortable environment with areas for individual and group work as well as silent study.

Experience and familiarity with using the more specialist industry resources will be recognised and valued by future employers. Developing skills to make the most of our rich information environment at Cranfield is not only important to you whilst you are studying at Cranfield, it is also vital for your future employability and career progression.

Entry Requirements

A first or second class UK Honours degree (or equivalent) in an engineering discipline.
Applicants who do not fulfil the standard entry requirements can apply for the Pre-Masters programme, successful completion of which will qualify them for entry to this course for a second year of study.

English Language

If you are an international student you will need to provide evidence that you have achieved a satisfactory test result in an English qualification. The minimum standard expected from a number of accepted courses are as follows:

IELTS - 6.5

TOEFL - 92 

Pearson PTE Academic - 65

Cambridge English Scale - 180

Cambridge English: Advanced - C

Cambridge English: Proficiency - C

In addition to these minimum scores you are also expected to achieve a balanced score across all elements of the test. We reserve the right to reject any test score if any one element of the test score is too low.

We can only accept tests taken within two years of your registration date (with the exception of Cambridge English tests which have no expiry date).

Students requiring a Tier 4 (General) visa must ensure they can meet the English language requirements set out by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and we recommend booking a IELTS for UKVI test.


Home EU Student Fees

MSc Full-time - £10,000

Overseas Fees

MSc Full-time - £20,000

Fee notes:

  • The fees outlined apply to all students whose initial date of registration falls on or between 1 August 2016 and 31 July 2017.
  • All students pay the tuition fee set by the University for the full duration of their registration period agreed at their initial registration.
  • A deposit may be payable, depending on your course.
  • Additional fees for extensions to the agreed registration period may be charged and can be found below.
  • Fee eligibility at the Home/EU rate is determined with reference to UK Government regulations. As a guiding principle, EU nationals (including UK) who are ordinarily resident in the EU pay Home/EU tuition fees, all other students (including those from the Channel Islands and Isle of Man) pay Overseas fees.


To help students in finding and securing appropriate funding we have created a funding finder where you can search for suitable sources of funding by filtering the results to suit your needs. 

Visit the funding finder.

Bursaries may be available, however please be aware that funding will, in most cases, only be discussed once you have secured a firm offer of a place on the course. Please contact the Enquiries Office for further details.

Cranfield Postgraduate Loan Scheme (CPLS)

The Cranfield Postgraduate Loan Scheme (CPLS) is a funding programme providing affordable tuition fee and maintenance loans for full-time UK/EU students studying technology-based MSc courses.

Conacyt (Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia)

Cranfield offers competitive scholarships for Mexican students in conjunction with Conacyt (Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia) in science, technology and engineering.

Application Process

Online application form. Applicants may be invited to attend for interview. Applicants based outside of the UK may be interviewed either by telephone or video conference.

Career opportunities

The MSc in Aerospace Vehicle Design is valued and respected by employers worldwide. The applied nature of this course ensures that our graduates are ready to be of immediate use to their future employer and has provided sufficient breadth of understanding of multi-discipline design to position them for accelerated career progression.

This course prepares graduates for careers as project design engineers, systems design, structural design or avionic engineers in aerospace or related industries, with the aim of progressing to technical management/chief engineer. Graduates from the MSc in Aerospace Vehicle Design can therefore look forward to a varied choice of challenging career opportunities in the above disciplines. 

Many of our graduates occupy very senior positions in their organisations, making valuable contributions to the international aerospace industry. Typical student destinations include BAE Systems, Airbus, Dassault and Rolls-Royce.

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