Have you ever wondered how such a big, heavy metal bird takes off with aplomb and touches down on the tarmac gracefully after weathering rough weather thousands of metres up in the sky? All the real flying machines are designed and built to endure complicated and tough and extreme weather conditions. In order to make your journey effortless and safe, a flurry of testing activity happens behind the scenes.

It’s the same case with all flying objects such as drones, parachutes and others. Before they hit the markets, they undergo a battery of tests to understand and better the functioning of several components.

A key component of the testing system is wind tunnels, which expose the flying machines to extreme weather conditions early on. With a view to promote space research, BITS Pilani has decided to set up the country’s largest wind tunnel facility in Telangana. The project, which will be ready for use by researchers, will be completed in a year, giving a boost to aerodynamic testing and research.

A wind tunnel is a crucial facility for conducting aerodynamic testing on various objects, such as aircraft, drones, vehicles, and other aerodynamically sensitive structures.

With the ability to recreate wind speeds of up to 220 kilometres an hour, the tunnel will help scientists test the aerodynamic effects on a diverse range of subjects including full-scale drones/quadcopters, automobiles, parachutes, and electric vehicle battery management systems.

“The capability of a wind tunnel would depend on the size of its test section where the aerial vehicle would be tested and the maximum wind speeds it can generate,” explains G Sundar, Director of BITS Hyderabad Campus, and Off-Campus Programmes and Industry Engagement at BITS Pilani.

The wind tunnel facility will feature two distinct test sections — an expansive 5 m x 5 m area designed for a full-scale assessment of quadcopters and automobile cooling systems, and a more compact 2 m x 2 m test section capable of simulating winds at speeds of up to 220 kmph.

“Drones and UAVs hold immense potential across various sectors, including commercial, defence, and recreation. The wind tunnel will play a pivotal role in establishing BITS Pilani as a hub for deep-tech entrepreneurship,” he elaborates.

The facility is being supported by Goutham Kurra, an entrepreneur and an alumnus of BITS Pilani. Kurra had founded Glint, a global leader in employee engagement which was later acquired by LinkedIn in 2018.

The upcoming facility will have the ability to regulate wind conditions, both in terms of space and time, through an active control system innovatively developed by BITS Pilani’s students and faculty. “ The facility will support and enrich aerospace education as well as encourage more academia and industry collaboration by offering students, researchers and industries a platform for exploration and innovation,” says Sundar.