Introduction

Ever wondered when flying in an airplane at 35,000 ft in the air, that just how did this marvel happen? How did we humans move from the land to the sky? If these questions provoke your mind, then Aerospace Engineering might have the answers you need. From the working of planes to rockets and from missiles to satellites to flying robots, Aerospace Engineering spans it all. Yes, it is quite literally, “Rocket Science”.

What is Aerospace Engineering all about?

Aerospace Engineering comes out as a really exotic branch in an engineering world where computer science, mechanical and electrical engineering are all the fiasco. A relatively newer branch as compared to the conventional engineering branches, it is a very interesting and involved branch in itself. Aerospace Engineering at IIT Bombay deals with both air and space. There is a decent amount of Physics involved and through the course of four years, you get exposed to experiments and laboratory projects that keep you inspired with the real life applications of what you are to study. At the end of your degree, you will have a clear understanding of how aircraft and rocket systems work, from all structural, aerodynamic, controls and propulsion points of view. The department is very flexible on cross-department courses, since it draws a lot from other departments like systems and control electrical and computer science.

What kind of courses do you have to do?

While the first year is basically involved in consolidating basic knowledge in calculus, physics, chemistry and biology (like every other department). The second year lays down the basic foundation in all the four major areas which are Fluid Mechanics & Aerodynamics, Systems & Controls, Structures and Propulsion. The third year involved deeper understanding of all the four areas. This is when you’re exposed to a lot of experimental and laboratory work, which gives you an exciting perspective into how these things fit into the real world applications of Aerospace. The fourth year gives your entire experience a closure by having an Aircraft Design exercise where you apply all the knowledge that you’ve gained through the four years of learning in the department to create a technologically-viable aerospace product of your own. The department is very well-suited for pursuing research in any of these fronts. Most people opt for a Supervised Learning Program and B.Tech Projects to get their hands dirty with core research in aerospace.

Core specializations

Four major areas come under the umbrella of Aerospace Engineering:

Aerodynamics

Since very beginning humanity has been fascinated by flight and we are no exception. Since childhood, you must have wondered what makes these plane fly? How can such heavy objects be lifted? Why birds fly in particular fashion or why racing cars are designed in way they are? You must have wondered about all the fuss about sonic barrier and what's so special about it. While studying aerodynamics, we try to understand forces on a medium in which we have lived our whole life. It's not just about those wind tunnel testing or computational fluid dynamics but also about all fluids - air, water, blood etc. and their interactions with boundaries. It begins with a course on fluid mechanics which includes an introduction to simple topics such as Bernoulli theorem and covers the foundation such as potential flow concept necessary to understand the flow over airfoils. It is followed by a course on Aerodynamics which uses some basics from fluid mechanics to analyze the flow past airfoils. It also teaches some experimental techniques which are currently used to simulate flow over aircrafts. Apart from these we also have many electives which you can take based on your interest like computational fluid dynamics, study of hypersonic flow, experimental method in fluid dynamics, etc. In addition to these theory courses there are laboratory courses to familiarize you about high speed experiments, flow over aerodynamic bodies and certain other experiments designed to test the theories which you have learnt in the courses.

Propulsion

The plane is sturdy, the plane can balance itself but how does it move at unbelievable speeds? What powers such heavy bodies to fly at speeds six times greater than the speed of sound? Engines - heart of every locomotive are very fascinating things. Squeezing out every possible bit of thrust from fuel without compromising with safety is what separates leaders from pretenders. Here we study about engines which power our flying crafts. It basically involves an in-depth study of each and every component of engines and also talks about various types of engines such as turbojet, turbofan, ramjet, scramjet engines etc., The courses in propulsion starts with a basic course in thermodynamics, starting briefly with the basic concepts and quickly turning over to the practical applications of the theory to the engines. Then there is a course following it describing specifically each and every component of engine such as inlet, compressor, combustor, turbine, nozzle, etc., This will give you an opportunity to analyze any aircraft engine, may be the one which you see in your flight from your home to Mumbai. As with the other areas, propulsion is also supported by some laboratory courses through which you gain hands-on experience to some of the components of engine and also to use a small scale aircraft engine as a whole.

Structures

You must have seen lot of fascinating airborne bodies and must have wondered why these don't fail. You may have heard about air crashes and also tall claims like dying in airplane has almost same probability as dying in bathtub. These make us wonder about stability and safety of aircraft, especially when you see wings flex during the flight. Structures not only take care of forces acting on such bodies or deformations caused by them but also of all interactions taking place between these bodies and the air around them. Structures form most integral part of safety limits of any airborne objects. The basic sequence of courses includes introduction with Solid Mechanics which creates a link between what you have learnt in high school and what you will be dealing with while designing or analyzing the structural components of an Aerospace vehicle. This gives a basic introduction to structures. It is followed by a course focusing on aerospace structures such as ribs, spar web, etc., in wings or theories such as thin-walled theory to analyze the Aerospace structures. Apart from these we also have many electives which you can take based on your interest like aero elasticity, vibrations in Aerospace structures, composite materials etc. The theory courses are supplemented with the laboratory courses which includes testing strengths of different materials using different techniques, synthesizing composites used in aviation industry, etc.

Controls

How does an autopilot work? How can military aircraft perform insane maneuvers during dog fights? Aircraft controls is responsible for this and involves all the instruments which are used to control aircraft, satellites, missiles, launch-vehicle or any other aerial vehicle. After having the structural body, aerodynamic and propulsion analysis ready, what is left is how to fly or navigate the aerospace vehicles from one place to another. It does analysis to transport an aircraft from one place to another, to launch a satellite in its orbit, to launch a missile and to make it continuously follow the target, to keep track of satellites and many more things. There are a number of theory and laboratory courses in this field which give you an idea of the basics of control theory and slightly moves on to more advanced topics leading to an understanding of many real-life missions. The courses aims at analyzing the trajectory of a launch vehicle, the maneuvers of an aircraft, and designing the control systems which are used to control them. Basically, task is to develop a brain for everything we can design.

What after you are an Aerospace Engineer?

In a country where aerospace hasn't opened up as well for the private sector, the placement for Aerospace engineers from IIT Bombay isn’t all that bad. Graduates from IIT Bombay are placed all over the world, and the alumni network is immensely widespread, with preferred destinations ranging from companies like Boeing, Airbus, GE, Honeywell etc. to Indian space organizations / aircraft laboratories like ISRO, NAL, HAL and DRDO. For a subject as research oriented as aerospace engineering, higher studies is also a popular option where our seniors have secured post graduation in top notch universities.

Department Alumni

Ankit Shah, Aerospace Engg, B.Tech (2013)


Motivations behind choosing Aero, expectations and reality?
I always wanted to work with aircrafts and spacecrafts since I was a kid and Aerospace was my first choice in terms of branches. I had read up on basics of principles of flight well before JEE admissions and even JEE preparation. I was aware of what the course of study would include. The reality was quite aligned with what I had thought. The B.Tech course gave a very broad overview of all the sectors involved in Aerospace, including structures, propulsion, aerodynamics, controls and design. The electives in the curriculum allowed me to study a particular area in greater detail.

Activities you were involved in?
I was involved with the Student Satellite Project, Pratham for almost 4 years at IIT-B. I worked with the integration and later the control systems team. I was also involved in aeromodelling, first as an enthusiast and later in a managerial role for a year. The student involvement in aeromodelling in the last 2 years of my stay at IITB was great. I had also made a conscious effort towards my academics and I found most of the courses to be very enjoyable.

What according to you are some of the exciting new areas in this field?
I think networked constellation of small satellites, autonomous aircrafts, intelligent systems, more environmentally aware civilian airspace will become key areas in the future. Space exploration initiatives are also taking off in India in terms of more advanced science missions and more capable launch systems.
What can freshmen expect from the department and IITB, job and higher studies prospects? Placements have a lot to do with individual motivation and initiative. However I can say that the curriculum was well balanced and provided a good overview of the aerospace sector. In addition the institute core curriculum also does a good job of arming one with the tools required work in non-aerospace sectors like finance, consulting or management. Higher studies is also an option I would strongly recommend. The institute, department and the faculty are well known around the world. Many alumni of the department are working towards or have completed post graduate degrees in many universities worldwide.

What are you currently involved in?
I am currently at MIT and working towards my PhD in Aeronautics and Astronautics. My area of research is in autonomous systems. I am interested in developing ways for an intelligent agent to perform combined task and motion level planning. The scientific and mathematical tools I use involve control theory and some basics of planning algorithms.

How did IITB and the Aerospace Department help shape your life?
I had a very enjoyable four years at the Aerospace department. I enjoyed the courses and the learning. I found the faculty to be very approachable and friendly. But above all, the thing I value the most was my time with the Satellite project. I learnt a lot about engineering by actually working towards building a system and working with others in a team. I found great friends amongst the student mentors of the team. I also improved a lot technically in preparing and facing the tough questions during project reviews by our faculty mentors. I feel I must espcially thank Prof Sudhakar for always being there to guide me in my journey through IIT-B right from the Introductory Course, through Pratham and my final year project.



Raunak Bhattacharyya, Aerospace Engg, B.Tech (2013)


Aviation is the pinnacle of all the engineering disciplines. It is that field where the cream of all engineering comes together to help man realize his wildest dream, that of flying. Like most kids, I was always fascinated by flying. However, what interested me the most was not just the flying itself, but what actually goes into building something that can fly. The undergrad aerospace curriculum set me on my first steps to understanding just that. And the journey didn’t end there. I got inspired by what I had learnt during my undergrad to pursue post-graduate studies in Aerospace. Currently, I am a doctoral candidate in the Aerospace Engineering department at Georgia Institute of Technology.

The professors at IITB AE are renowned experts in their respective fields and are all involved, directly or indirectly, in shaping the future of aviation in our nation. They serve as experts on issues of national defense and commercial aviation, act as consultants to leading aerospace firms and lead research efforts to expand the frontiers of science in general and aviation in particular. Though a bit intimidating at first, once you get to know them better, you find a treasure trove of knowledge, experience and insight within each and every professor.

Toward this end of getting to know a professor beyond what is taught in class, the AE school offers a Supervised Learning Program (SLP) wherein a student works under the guidance of a professor for a semester of research. I did two SLPs during my undergrad and I learnt loads from them; not only about technical issues but issues relating to how research is carried out in teams, how knowledge sharing is done, how to communicate and present and defend your work and how a large scale problem which is beyond any you have seen in class can be tackled by breaking it into bits and tapping into the expertise and dedication of the team members. I am still using those lessons I learnt today in my research effort here at Georgia Tech.

Finally, at IITB, you would be surrounded by gems of people. People so sharp, so motivated and so clear in their thought process that you would always have someone to look up to, someone to be strive to be better than, someone to be inspired by and someone to learn something from. That is the most important thing about IITB in that it teaches you to always set the bar high. It gives you the confidence to take on any problem, any challenge knowing that giving it your best shot would most likely result in something exciting. At IITB AE specifically, I can confidently assert that I learnt as much from my peers as I did from my professors.

Aviation in India is poised for big things and you are going to be the leaders to take our nation onto the frontiers of aviation and beyond.

Student Activities

Explore the department beyond books!

Zephyr

Zephyr is IIT Bombay’s annual Aviation festival that has now grown to become one of the biggest aviation festivals in India. What started off as an annual congregation of Aerospace enthusiasts and budding engineers of IIT Bombay, has now established itself as a pioneer herald of Aerospace for engineering students. It aims to provide a platform for students, scientists, professors and the industry to come together, showcase their work and exchange ideas. Lectures, workshops, competitions, exhibitions, Zephyr has it all, attracting over 3000 high­quality participants and many corporate partners every year.

Pratham

The IIT Bombay Student Satellite Project is a landmark project taken up by IIT Bombay students. The objective of this project is to make IIT Bombay a respected centre for advancement in Satellite and Space Technology in the world. The project aims at launching at least 5 satellites within the next few years. These Satellites could be test­beds for new technology that is being developed in the institute and also a method for space qualification.

Udaan

The students of the Department of Aerospace Engineering at IIT Bombay, have now revived the "Schools Outreach Programme". This new initiative called "Udaan" will create awareness about Aerospace Engineering among the school students. They are supported by Aerospace Engineering Association of the Department.

MSI

The Mars Society India is a part of a global community that shares a common vision of a manned Mars Exploration and strives to achieve this unprecedented feat in the coming years. The society was formed by a group of IIT Bombay students and hopes to develop into an epitome of space research in the country. We aspire to engage the students and public in general with the developments in space exploration through our projects and awareness programmes.

Rakshak

The objective of the team is to develop a robust unmanned aerial platform to be used for a variety of applications including, but not limited to
Conservation and Wildlife (Health monitoring of forest, Tracking poachers)
Supporting Search and Rescue operations for lost personnel
Providing relief measures in disaster stricken areas (Landslide, Floods, Earthquake etc.)
Surveys and mapping of cities

AUV

The team works towards participating at AUVSI Robosub Competition, which is held annually in July at San Diego, California. The competition is a platform for students to display their skills in underwater robotics and build a connection with industries working along similar verticals. The competition demands designing and manufacturing of an autonomous underwater vehicle that can perform predefined tasks.