One of the biggest priorities for the aerospace industry is focusing on innovation to determine what the next generation of aircraft will look like. Finding a cheaper, safer, greener or faster means of air travel than today’s aircraft is essential. 

Flight physics plays a critical role in understanding how new and traditional aircraft designs might perform and the impact of novel technologies. As a passenger, we may not always be aware that flight physics is relevant from taking off, to moving forward whilst airborne, whilst remaining steady during turbulence and landing.

The science behind flight physics is concerned with assessing different phases of flight that air vehicles might undergo. Our expertise in this field is applicable to civil and military aircraft, helicopters, UAVs, missiles and even flight insects.

We have developed a strong track record over many decades working with leading industry partners on research projects in the fields of:

  • Aerodynamics – analysis of aerodynamic performance for all types of air vehicles and specified flight conditions.

  • Morphing Technologies – dynamically changing the structural shape whilst in-flight to optimise performance and fuel efficiency.

  • Fluid/Structure Interaction – combining our expertise in this area with aerodynamics to investigate the impact on structures as a result of the interaction with fluid flows.

  • Aero-Acoustics – compliance with legislation to reduce noise footprint of aircraft without affecting performance.

  • Flight Dynamics – looking at aircraft dynamics and control including pilot perception of aircraft handling and manoeuvrability.

  • Biomimetics – understanding how flight is achieved in nature such as bird and insect flight.

Our research activities have been in collaboration with partners such as the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the European Union. Industrial partners include clients from the aerospace, mechanical and nuclear sectors from the UK and abroad. 

Clients include Airbus, AWE, BAE Systems, Boeing, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), EADS, Lockheed Martin, MBDA, Selex ES, Thales and UKAEA.

About our research

Our greatest strength is the ability to combine the academic rigour and long-term perspective of a university with the commercial and business focus of industry.

Our excellence in strategic and applied research has enabled us to make significant contributions to the world around us for over 60 years. We address real life challenges and focus on research that is of strategic and practical importance.

We provide a supportive research community for students and our academic work is regularly published in journal article, book or thesis form.

Working with us

We have worked with a number of partners to examine how to improve aerodynamic performance and fuel efficiency providing a fundamental understanding of not only what is happening but how it can be improved. We are experienced in developing and adapting computational and experimental tools to help minimise uncertainties within different flight modes where commercial software packages are not appropriate. Our optimisation and analysis approach combines the vital partnership between science and engineering to provide meaningful results and solutions that can have a real impact for business.

We provide a range of ways to collaborate with business from sponsorship of student projects to long-term blue sky research projects, where we might work as part of a consortium to assess the potential performance of novel aircraft concepts. Our flexible approach means that we are able to offer a quick-turnaround to meet critical deadlines.