Airframe aerodynamics and control using electric ducted fans

The research will utilise aerodynamic simulations, combined with flight control models, to investigate innovative approaches for the design and control of air vehicles employing electric propulsion.

Start date
1 January 2022
3 years
Application deadline
Funding source
EPSRC (DTP) and Blue Bear Systems Research
Funding information

Full UK tuition fee covered. Stipend at UKRI rate (£15,609 per annum) increasing annually. Personal computer/laptop provided by the department.


As part of the global push for the electrification of aviation, electric ducted fans (EDFs) are gaining increasing use to propel novel concepts emerging in the Urban Air Mobility (UAM) sector and beyond. In addition to use as an alternative means for thrust generation, the reduced weight of an EDF, compared to a turbofan, also makes it viable to rotate EDF units for UAM eVTOL operation. In this case, the number of EDF units and their location within an air-vehicle configuration must be considered from the outset as part of the overall air-vehicle design. Unconventional placement, combined with the possibility for rotation, means the aerodynamic and propulsion installation effects between an EDF and the airframe must be fully considered. These interactions will vary for differing operating conditions and differing throttle settings, with the potential to lead to critical control conditions. The transition from hover to forward flight will represent a particularly challenging requirement. However, there are also opportunities to utilise the interaction effects in a beneficial way, such as the use of EDFs as an alternative or supplemental control effectors, either directly by thrust vectoring and/or indirectly through localised powered airframe effects. This leads to an increased need to incorporate flight control design, alongside aerodynamics and propulsion installation, in overall air-vehicle design decisions.    

The project will utilise aerodynamic simulation (CFD and wind-tunnel), combined with flight control models, to investigate overall air-vehicle UAM design employing EDF modules. The project will benefit through close collaboration with Blue Bear Systems Research together with the wider research team within the Centre for Aerodynamics and Environmental Flow at the University of Surrey.

We can offer this opportunity for a January 2022 start, with applications considered on a first-come-first-served basis.

All facilities associated with our EnFlo laboratory and our fluid dynamics supercomputer cluster will be made available to the successful candidate.

Eligibility criteria

Applicants are expected to hold a First Class or Upper Second degree, ideally at Masters level, in Aerospace/Mechanical Engineering or a closely related discipline. 

English Language requirements

English requirement of 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6.0 in each individual category. 

How to apply

Applications should be submitted via the Centre for Aerodynamics and Environmental Flow PhD programme page. Please clearly state the studentship title and supervisor on your application.

For informal enquiries, please email John Doherty and Simao Marques, including your CV with qualification details (copies of transcript/certificates) and names of two referees.

Shortlisted applicants will be contacted to arrange a suitable interview time. 

Application deadline

Contact details

John Doherty
12 AB 02
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 686525

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