Aerodynamics – Essential for Effective Flight

Aerodynamics is the study of the motion of air and other gases and their effects on a body in movement, as well as the effects of moving air on stationary objects. The word aerodynamics is derived from the two Greek words: “aerios”, relating to air, and “dynamis”, meaning force. The principles of aerodynamics have been utilized in many industries, such as the automobile industry, heating and ventilation and various aspects of engineering, as well as in the field of sports, notably cycling. Without a doubt though, since the invention of “heavier-than-air” flight, air travel is the leader in the field of aerodynamics.

The main forces that come into play in the aerodynamics of flight are lift, drag and velocity. Airplane wings, for example, are designed to use their movement through the air to create an area of high pressure below the wing and an area of low pressure above the wing. The resultant difference between these two pressures provides the lift needed for flight. Drag forces are caused largely by friction and the wings of an airplane cause drag, which must then be compensated for. Aeronautical engineers take into account the many factors that can affect the lift and drag of their designs. One of these factors is that lower air pressures, that occur at high altitudes, are known to reduce both lift and drag.

An interesting development in the wonders of flight has been the progress of the science known as biomimetics. Biomimetics – also known as bionics – is the study of adapting actions and behaviors observed in nature for use in technology. The study of birds and insects in flight has been greatly beneficial in understanding and improving aerodynamics of aircraft. Migratory birds such as the Arctic tern are equipped for high speeds, using the V formation of flight to boost each other and increase their flight range. Others stay in the air for hours, gliding and soaring with very little wing movement. Study of the herring-gull has aided scientists and engineers in arriving at the principles of aerial navigation.

It’s clear that aerodynamics is a complex and essential science which will continue to be studied and perfected. Based on the progress made in the past few decades, it would seem that the possibilities are endless.