Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering
Adjust Font Size: Normal Large X-Large

AEM 4371: Helicopter Aerodynamics

Catalog Description



AEM 4371

Helicopter Aerodynamics

3 Credits


Catalog Description:


Review of basic aerodynamics, unique features of helicopters, momentum theory in axial flight and rotor flow states, momentum theory in non-axial flight, blade-element theory, vortex theory, helicopter equations of motion.  Design project.


Course Web Address:


Prerequisites by Topic:


  1. Flight Mechanics (AEM 2301)
  2. Aerodynamics (AEM 4202)




Principles of Helicopter Aerodynamics, Leishman, Cambridge University Press, 2000


Format of Course


3 hours of lecture per week


Computer Usage:


Programming required to complete homework assignments.


Course Objectives:


This course is mainly about rotary-wing aerodynamics, with applications to helicopters. The unique features of a helicopter are caused by the rotor. In a forward flight, the advancing side of the rotor will experience different loads as the retreating side of the rotor, and thus the blades must be allowed to flap and to feather. We are going to discuss three ways to estimate the relationship among thrust, power requirement, and payload: Momentum theory, Blade element theory, and Vortex theory.


Students should be able to understand the flight operations of single rotor helicopters, and should be able to calculate the power requirement for lifting a certain payload, or thrust available for given amount of power. Students should be able to assess effects of helicopter design changes and ambient conditions on the predicted thrust capabilities and power requirements.


Course Outcomes:


Students who successfully complete the course will demonstrate the following outcomes by tests, homework, and a written report.


  1. Enhance ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science and engineering through analysis of helicopter flights.
  2. Apply knowledge to design of a system, process or component by developing a mathematical model of autonomous model helicopters.
  3. Improve ability to identify, formulate and solve engineering problems.
  4. Enhance understanding of professional and ethical responsibilities by discussion of effects of helicopter safety.
  5. Improve ability to communicate effectively by preparing a written report.
  6. Improve life-long learning abilities by introducing advanced concepts which will allow students to access technical literature on helicopter operation, flight, and control.
  7. Improve ability to use modern engineering tools by providing practice in using Matlab and computer programming language to solve realistic engineering problems.
  8. Improve knowledge of aerodynamics, helicopter operations and helicopter controls.


Relationship of course to program objectives:


By integrating topics in aerodynamics, flight mechanics, and helicopter operations, and by requiring a written report this course will contribute to all five of the stated objective for the BAEM program


Relationship of course to program outcomes:


This course provides the following outcomes:


  1. Apply mathematics
  2. System Design
  3. Identify engineering problems
  4. Communication skills
  5. Lifelong learning
  6. Engineering Tools
  7. Aerodynamics
  8. Propulsion
  9. Flight mechanics
  10. Stability and control



Course Outline:


(Hrs, approx.)



Introduction and V/STOL        


Review of Aerodynamics         


Momentum Theory – Introduction


Simplest Model


Actuator Disc-Axial Flight


Flow States in Axial Flight


Non-Axial Flight


Series Expansion of Induced Velocity


Examples of Performance Calculations


Blade Element Theory – Introduction


Translation and Hover


Hover Design Problems


Rotation Effects, Figure of Merit


Forward Flight


Simple Control of the Rotor


Down wash Distribution in Forward Flight


Profile Power


Power Required in Forward Flight




Vortex Theory




Hover Flight


Forward Flight


Advanced Topics        


Autonomous Helicopters          



Outcome Measurement:


Outcomes are measured by homework, exams, a design project and class participation.


Student Survey Questions:


This course improved my ability to do the following:

  1. Apply knowledge of math, science, and engineering.
  2. Design a system, component or process to meet desired needs.
  3. Identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems.
  4. Communicate effectively.
  5. Recognize of the need for, and the ability to engage in life-long learning.
  6. Use the techniques, skills, modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice.


Please answer the following questions regarding the course:

  1. The textbook was clearly written and appropriate for the course.
  2. The homework helped me to understand the concepts presented in the course.
  3. The tests were appropriate in length and content.
  4. The level of work required in this course was appropriate for the credit given.
  5. The design project helped me to understand how the fundamental course material is applied in an elementary design problem?


In this course I acquired an understanding of the following topics:

  1. How helicopters work.
  2. How to estimate power requirements for a helicopter to carry a given payload.
  3. Principle of helicopter controls.
  4. Effects of blade design on helicopter performance.
  5. Helicopter flight after engine failure.
  6. Autonomous Helicopters.


Last modified:





Last Modified: 2007-07-24 at 10:04:45 -- this is in International Standard Date and Time Notation