Aerodynamics is often used synonymously with gas dynamics, the difference being that “gas dynamics” applies to the study of the motion of all gases, and is not limited to air.

The use of aerodynamics through mathematical analysis, empirical approximations, wind tunnel experimentation, and computer simulations has formed a rational basis for the development of heavier-than-air flight and several other technologies. Recent work in aerodynamics has focused on issues related to compressible flow, turbulence, and boundary layers and has become increasingly computational.

Aerodynamic problems are classified by the flow environment or properties of the flow, including flow speed, compressibility, and viscosity. External aerodynamics is the study of flow around solid objects of various shapes. Evaluating the lift and drag on an aeroplane or the shock waves that form in front of the nose of a rocket are examples of external aerodynamics. Internal aerodynamics is the study of flow through passages in solid objects. For instance, internal aerodynamics encompasses the study of airflow through a jet engine or through an air conditioning pipe.

Aerodynamics problems, the forces of interest are the fundamental forces of flight: lift, drag, thrust, and weight. Of these, lift and drag are aerodynamic forces, i.e. forces due to airflow over a solid body.

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