Example dissertation projects

Your dissertation is the culmination of your MSc course. It's your chance to explore the aspects of aerospace engineering that excite you, and to demonstrate all your skills and abilities.

Here are some examples of the type of Aerospace Engineering dissertation projects you could undertake: 

  • Design of an Experiment to Investigate the Efficiency of Vortex Tube Particle Separators for Helicopter Engines

    Supervisor: Dr Nicholas Bojdo

    The aim of this project is to design an experiment to investigate the flowfield and subsequent efficiency of vortex tube particle separators. Vortex tube separators are fitted to the air intakes of helicopter engines to remove potentially harmful sand and dust from the influent air. They work by swirling the air, thus centrifuging the particulate to the tube’s periphery. A peripheral scavenge flow then ejects the outermost particulate-laden air to the outside, while the cleaner inner ‘core’ air continues to the engine. Their efficiency is a fine balance between minimising pressure loss and mass flow loss, while achieving high removal efficiency through intricate and optimised helix design. This project will focus on setting up an experiment to test these variables. It will include the use of rapid prototyping, CAD, and experimental instrumentation.

    Skills: Experimental techniques, fluid mechanics, CAD, 3D printing, gas turbines.

    Fig: 1 1: cutaway of Vortex Tube Separator

    Fig: 1 1: cutaway of Vortex Tube Separator

    Fig: 2: Vortex Tube Separator Array fitted to helicopter engine intake

    Fig: 2: Vortex Tube Separator Array fitted to helicopter engine intake

  • Aircraft Noise Prediction

    Supervisor: Dr Antonio Filippone

    Aircraft noise is a major source of environmental emissions. Noise levels are governed by stringent international regulations that must comply at the design and operational level. The purpose of this project is to make advancements from an existing computational model (FLIGHT), which is capable of predicting aircraft noise from turbofan and turboprop-powered commercial airplanes. Opportunities exist at various levels, including landing gear noise, high-lift noise, fuselage exterior noise, noise shielding from airframes and solid bodies, noise interference, propagation and reflection, noise trajectory optimisation. We have gathered experimental data for extensive validation. The main purpose of this project is to provide validation with some of the airplane models and experimental data available.


    • To understand aircraft noise and the methods to predict noise
    • To understand the operation of the FLIGHT code
    • To develop interfaces to simulate aircraft noise trajectories
    • To provide validation for a specified aircraft
    • To write a report summarizing conclusions on the software, the theoretical models and the accuracy of the results.
  • Aerodynamic Modelling of Insect Flight

    Supervisor: Dr Mostafa Nabawy

    Insect wing aerodynamics is one of the very interesting problems of fluid mechanics. The aim of this project is to provide a low-order yet accurate means for evaluating the aerodynamic performance of insect-wings. The project will start with reviewing previous relevant work at Manchester and in the wider literature and identify opportunities for extending the state of the art. A theoretical model will be developed to predict the aerodynamic performance of insect wings. A demonstration of the model output against available data from the literature has to be presented to evaluate cost/benefit of developed modelling facility.

    Aerodynamic Modelling of Insect Flight

  • Aircraft Wing Morphing using Internal Mechanisms

    Supervisor: Dr S O Oyadiji

    The configuration of an aircraft wing changes when taking off, cruising and landing. This is done in order to change the lift-to-drag ratios to required values and to effect controls according to the particular manoeuvre being undertaken. Conventionally, this is achieved via the deployment of control surfaces such as flaps and ailerons. New concepts are currently being developed for future aircraft in terms of the morphing of the wing and/or control surfaces. A future aircraft might morph its wings using smart actuators and sensors in an attempt to mimic birds and, thereby, achieve greater flight efficiency with less fuel burn. The aim of this project is to continue previous projects on the morphing of a model of a wing section using shape memory alloy (SMA) wires and segmented ribs. A skin which is extensible in the chordwise direction but rigid in the spanwise direction is to be developed. The model will be tested in the wind tunnel and its performance will be evaluated by CFD analyses.

    Nature of project: Computational & Experimental

  • Flapping wing aerodynamics demonstrator

    Supervisor: Dr Ben Parslew

    This project will design and build a mechanical model that demonstrates the physical principles of flapping-wing flight. A complete flapping-wing aircraft is not required, but the model should demonstrate how flapping wings can generate thrust and lift. Design of the model will include some theoretical modelling, or computational modelling using Matlab/Simulink.

    Flapping wing aerodynamics demonstrator

  • Characterisation of the Plint supersonic wind tunnel

    Supervisor: Dr Mark Quinn

    This project is based around understanding and characterising the flow within the supersonic wind tunnel used within the School of MACE. The tunnel consists of an asymmetric nozzle which can generate a two-dimensional flow field rather than the ideal one-dimensional flow. Design changes are planned to this tunnel, which require finalising. Characterisation of this facility will require the use of data acquisition software such as LabVIEW, the development of post-processing algorithms and will provide an excellent introduction to experimental fluid mechanics.

    Characterisation of the Plint supersonic wind tunnel

  • Development of airflow predicting drones: an android based mobile CFD platform

    Supervisor: Dr Alistair Revell

    We are offering the chance to work on a research project recently funded by Samsung to exploit recent developments in real time CFD developments on novel many core platforms such as Graphical Processing Units (GPUs), which are highly energy efficient and often also used in mobile devices. It also seeks to bridge the gap between scientific visualisation of air speed and the specific needs of different users of a wind effect augmented reality layer by developing innovative graphical motives for communicating the predicted effect of wind motion on a user or vehicle in the physical environment. You can join a team working to unite our existing capabilities in GPU accelerated CFD and autonomous vehicles to develop a system capable of predicting local airspeed conditions by reconstructing terrain, buildings and other objects to create a visual wind awareness system. Prior knowledge of any of the following would be useful, or will otherwise potentially be gained during the project: MATLAB, CFD, Android device programming, image processing, UAV autopilot.

  • Rarefied Flow Wind Tunnel Flow Characterisation

    Supervisor: Dr Peter Roberts

    Orbital aerodynamics is driven by gas-surface interactions in the rarefied flow that exists around spacecraft in low Earth orbits.  Because of the complexities involved in the interaction between the predominant gas species (atomic oxygen) and surfaces, little is known about how the flow incidence angle, the surface material or the surface roughness affects drag for different materials.  To address this deficit, the concept of an entirely novel hyperthermal atomic oxygen wind tunnel is being explored.  This consists of an atomic oxygen source in an ultrahigh vacuum chamber, a highly sensitive force balance, and mass spectrometers to characterise the flow.  This project will involve liaising with the makers of the mass spectrometers (UCL) and developing models of the gas interactions, to calculate how accurately key measurement parameters of the gas-surface interaction can be determined considering the limitations of the spectrometer.

    Rarefied Flow Wind Tunnel Flow Characterisation

  • Design of a propulsion system for a “silent” aircraft

    Supervisor: Dr Sergey Utyuzhnikov

    The primary objective of a “silent” aircraft is noise reduction. It is affected by different disciplines such as acoustics, engine design, trajectory and performance. The trade-off between noise and performance should be analysed. These objectives contradict to each other. Therefore the optimal solution appears not to be unique. Optimal values for design variables (geometry, the number of engines, the number of funds per engine) should be obtained. Sensitivity of the optimal solution to inevitable uncertainties in the input parameters should be analysed. The relation between different disciplines is supposed to be known and given by algebraic formulas. The work should be done by the use of MATLAB.

  • Reduction of aerofoil profile drag using herringbone riblets

    Supervisor: Dr Shan Zhong

    The microscopic structure of birds’ feathers exhibits the appearance of herringbone riblets. It has been recently discovered that herringbone riblet surfaces are capable of reducing surface friction drag considerably for channel flows. However, so far little has been known about their impact on the aerodynamic performance of aircraft wings.

    In this project, an aerofoil model, whose surface is covered with herringbone riblets with appropriately chosen geometry, will firstly be designed and made. Wind tunnel experimental studies will then be carried out to evaluate their effectiveness in reducing aerofoil profile drag and to gain a further insight of the flow physics. 

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