Flight vehicle aerodynamics

Technical service highlights

For all aerospace vehicles, performance gains can be realized with superior management of the flow around and through the vehicle. NRC provides clients with the aerodynamic data they need to support improvements in product design — be it lift, stability and control, safety, performance, drag, loads, aeroacoustics, store release, or icing. Our experts and facilities are focused on delivering results to support your products.

Our clients include original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), the Canadian Forces and its allies, and aviation regulatory authorities.

Within specialized test facilities, our team can simulate a wide range of flow conditions for clients' fixed-wing aircraft, rotorcraft, defence systems and aviation sub-systems such as de-icing.

What we offer

Measurement, validation and understanding of aerodynamic data

Our team of experts has decades of experience in delivering cost-effective campaigns to acquire the right data and to interpret what it means to your world. We generate results from our in-demand facilities, including six wind tunnels and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) capabilities.

Aeroacoustic testing

We characterise flow-induced noise in our customized facilities and can work with your team to reduce noise intensity to help you comply with evermore-stringent regulatory requirements for minimizing noise pollution.

High Reynolds number capability

We assess high-lift and cruise performance in our pressurized trisonic 1.5 m wind tunnel. These precision tests can support your decisions for aircraft design, control-surface effectiveness assessments, and aircraft performance assessments.

High-altitude icing testing

Experiments in our Altitude Icing Wind Tunnel predict how electric and novel de-icing systems will behave in flight, at altitudes of up to 9 km (30,000 feet). Ice accretes differently at high altitude than it does at low altitudes, and we are working with industry and research leaders to unravel the physics and scaling behind these phenomena so that we can better contribute to your development programs.

Investigating ice accretion

We investigate the accretion of ice on critical aircraft surfaces and instrumentation, assess the effectiveness of different anti-icing fluids, and simulate and study ice-crystal conditions. Our large-scale propulsion icing wind tunnel lets you study the accretion of ice on full-scale inlets and large-scale aerodynamic surfaces.

Using our patented morphogenetic ice-accretion code, we can predict ice accretion on just about any shape in any flow with ice-cloud characteristics. Our predictions work for glaze and rime ice, and even generate the characteristic "lobster tail" pattern.

Non-intrusive flow diagnostics

Using optical measurements we can perform non-intrusive flow diagnostics to quantify the details of the flow over an aircraft wing, tail or any other surface. We use other techniques to assess the deformation of a model under aerodynamic load in the wind tunnel. Clients use these techniques to validate CFD, to better quantify loads and to locate unanticipated and unwanted flow separations.

Numerical simulation

Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) helps us simulate flow around products for clients. These cost-effective simulations can provide preliminary data before we move products or models into low- or high-speed wind tunnels. We have access to a range of commercial and in-house codes which we can apply to your design challenge. Recent successes include accurate flow-prediction capabilities at low Reynolds number for micro air vehicles.

Access to test facilities

Our six wind tunnels provide clients with varied options for assessing and de-risking prototype designs before moving on to full-scale tests, commercial development or in-flight tests. Additionally, our Design and Fabrication Services team develops prototypes and uniquely tailored models and auxiliary systems to support test programs in our wind tunnels.

For example, to de-risk flight tests for the Royal Canadian Air Force, NRC designed, built and commissioned a unique, sub-scale experimental rig to assess the impact of ship airwakes on pilot workload. We executed tests for a range of wind speeds, wind angles and ship geometries to provide flight envelope estimates for helicopters to launch and recover safely from Royal Canadian Navy ships. Our tests provide pilots with advance information before they undertake flight tests for a new helicopter-ship combination. That translates into less risk, and less time spent at sea, which means additional cost reductions.

In addition to offering these technical services, our aerodynamics team actively contributes to broader NRC initiatives and collaborative projects involving national and international partners, including the following initiatives:

Why work with us

Our top-notch experts are recognized worldwide for their icing and aerodynamics capabilities, and for managing high-quality, cost-effective facilities for the aviation industry.

Your benefits

When you undertake aerodynamic investigations with us, we provide high-quality, repeatable data to better inform your decision-making as you move through product design and development stages.

Through varied aerodynamic tests, we can identify ways to help you:

  • improve fuel efficiency
  • enhance stability and control
  • reduce noise
  • minimize drag
  • heighten performance
  • de-risk product design and development
  • anticipate, in a safe environment, how flow will affect products in real-world situations

Many clients rely on our quality data to support their certification by transportation authorities to meet environmental or safety requirements.

Our value

We operate one of the world's largest, commercially available, aerodynamic test facilities. In that 9 m wind tunnel, we perform cost-effective, confidential, full-scale tests for industry and government.

When considering military requirements, our 1.5 m trisonic wind tunnel presents a rare combination of speeds and pressures for its size. While many competing facilities stop at Mach 1.6, our facility covers low subsonic to supersonic speeds, from Mach 0.1 to 4.25, and at pressures up to 10 atmospheres. This highly configurable facility offers significant advantages to NRC's regular clients — the Canadian Forces and our allies.

As one of only a few facilities globally that permits high-altitude tests of up to 9 km, NRC's Altitude research wind tunnel is essential for manufacturers and aircraft operators with new, electronic de-icing systems.

Apart from testing de-icing systems, pilots worldwide rely on us to establish the data that Transport Canada and the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) use to determine safe de-icing holdover times. These holdover times factor in temperature, precipitation type and precipitation rate.

You can count on NRC to keep on top of upcoming changes in certification requirements. We also anticipate and meet new industry needs by continuing to develop novel techniques and modifying our systems. NRC's ambient icing and high-altitude icing capabilities, and our turbulence generator (large-scale flow treatment system in the 9 m wind tunnel) are examples of the ways we customize and upgrade our offerings for clients.

We also provide technical services for non-aeronautical applications such as for the aerodynamics of bluff bodies.

In addition to supporting our internal needs, NRC offers Design and Fabrication Services to industry clients requiring prototypes and models.

Beyond our aerodynamicists, technicians, electrical, mechanical engineers and other professionals in our Aerodynamics facilities, when you turn to NRC you also gain access to our skilled pilots who operate customized aircraft for in-flight tests.

Contact us

Contact us to discuss how NRC can help fulfill your research and technology needs through our fee-for-service testing, consulting, collaborative research agreements and licensing arrangements.

Business Development Team
Aerospace Research Centre
Email: nrc.aerobdt-edaaero.cnrc@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca