Aerodynamics the study of the motion of air, particularly its interaction with a solid object, such as an airplane wing. Aerodynamics is a sub-field of fluid dynamics and gas dynamics, and many aspects of aerodynamics theory are common to these fields. The term 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 formal study of aerodynamics began in the modern sense in the eighteenth century, although observations of fundamental concepts such as aerodynamic drag were recorded much earlier. Most of the early efforts in aerodynamics were directed toward achieving heavier-than-air flight, which was first demonstrated by Wilbur and Orville Wright in 1903. Since then, 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 a number of other technologies. Recent work in aerodynamics has focused on issues related to compressible flow, turbulence, and boundary layers and has become increasingly computational in nature.
Understanding the motion of air around an object (often called a flow field) enables the calculation of forces and moments acting on the object. In many 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 air flow over a solid body. Calculation of these quantities is often founded upon the assumption that the flow field behaves as a continuum. Continuum flow fields are characterized by properties such as flow velocity, pressure, density, and temperature, which may be functions of position and time. These properties may be directly or indirectly measured in aerodynamics experiments or calculated starting with the equations for conservation of mass, momentum, and energy in air flows. Density, flow velocity, and an additional property, viscosity, are used to classify flow fields.