Aerodynamics and wind research
Improving the understanding, efficiency, performance and safety of all interactions with the air around us.
Aerodynamics is a field that involves understanding how air passes over objects, the forces it creates, the characteristics of this flow and how they interact. Whether it is propelling a yacht, lifting a UAV, slowing an athlete or swaying a building, aerodynamics influences everyday life.
We are involved in both small and large-scale research – from asssessing building wind loads to understanding the changes in boundary layer flow over a UAV wing. The field is diverse and growing, as global movements demand clean energy with wind turbines, buildings increase in size to support growing populations, and UAVs become smaller as electronics reduce in size.
Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
UAVs are becoming more common and smaller as electronics miniaturise. They can provide capability for a variety of roles where it would be too hazardous or expensive to send a manned aircraft, but their aerodynamic behaviour is considerably different from the latter. Our work focuses mainly on UAV flight through adverse weather conditions such as ice accretion and highly turbulent atmosphere.
As the world’s population grows, so does the demand for power. But also growing is the awareness of the impact humans are having on the environment we live in, hence the need for clean energy. Our wind tunnels allow us to improve the efficiency of Wind Turbines through geometry and flow control, as well as reducing susceptibility to environmental issues such as icing. This work also extends to tidal turbines.
Building Wind Loading
Also growing with the population is the size of buildings to accommodate and entertain. Knowing the forces exerted due to the wind and the gusting at street level is critical to any successful structure. The Wind Tunnels allow the modelling of the atmospheric flow on a smaller scale for such building development. Furthermore, fittings on buildings such as solar panels and signs can be readily tested.
Yachts and Foiling Moths
The University of Auckland is home to the original Twisted Flow Wind Tunnel, allowing sails to be trimmed to perfection. The Yacht Research Unit is the hub of sail development at the University of Auckland, providing expertise on the development of any vessel or vehicle powered by sails.
Speed is key to many sports, and to be the best, it takes optimisation. Our flexible facilities allow the measurement of forces on athletes and their equipment. Research also includes other sports such as the aerodynamics of a rugby ball and access for the FSAE race team.
Multirotors are popular both with media and the public, but what are the aerodynamic loads on it, and how can control be improved? Such tests can be done in the wind tunnels when fixed to the force balance, along with free-flights to check stability in turbulent air.
The Wind Tunnel Hall
Our research and testing are largely conducted at our Wind Tunnel Hall, a specially-designed, award-winning facility with two wind tunnels including the largest of its kind in New Zealand, the Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel.