Teaching and Research Facilities

The faculty conducts classes in classrooms in Learned Hall, LEEP2, and the Milt Sills Flight Briefing Room in the Garrison Flight Research Center (Hangar #1) at the Lawrence Municipal Airport. The Department has laboratory facilities in Learned Hall, LEEP2, the Garrison Flight Research Center, and Hangar #2 (also at the Lawrence Municipal Airport).

Laboratory Facilities

The Aerospace Engineering Department has laboratory facilities in Learned Hall, LEEP2 and the Lawrence Airport. These facilities support the Department's undergraduate and graduate education and research missions.


The Closed Circuit Subsonic Wind Tunnel has a 36" by 51" test section and a maximum speed of 200 mph. This tunnel is equipped with a six-component strain-gauged balance and computerized data acquisition system. Flow visualization techniques include a laser light sheet, smoke, helium bubbles, and surface oil streak-line methods. A computerized, two-axis traversing system is available for flow field mapping. The test section and operator's station is located in Room 1180 of Learned Hall.

The Open Circuit Subsonic Wind Tunnel has a 21" by 30" test section and a maximum speed of 120 mph. This tunnel is useful for fundamental fluid mechanics experiments due to its low turbulence factor. The Department Laser-Doppler velocimeter, hot wire anemometer, and helium bubble system can be used in this tunnel.

The Supersonic Wind Tunnel has a 2” by 3 ¼’ test section with a Mach number range of 1.5 to 3.0. The tunnel is a draw-down type equipped with a Schlieren system and wall static pressure ports for pressure measurements. This tunnel is located in Room 1180, Learned Hall.

The Small Water Tunnel has a 6” wide, 6” deep and 7’ long channel. Water is pumped in a closed loop. The maximum speed at the experimental section is 3ft/sec. The turbulence level is 0.5%. This facility is mainly used for education and research. It allows particle image velocimetry measurements and dye-based flow visualization. The water tunnel is located in Room G445 LEEP2.

The Structural Dynamics and Acoustics Laboratory consists of a modal test system and an acoustics data acquisition system. The Data Physics / MeScope Modal Test System is used to determine the vibratory “signature” of structures using vibration data from various sensors, including piezoceramic accelerometers. This professional-grade system is augmented by a PC-based National Instruments data acquisition system with a high speed (1M sample/sec.) 32-channel analog-to-digital board. Vibration excitation is provided by both an electrodynamic shaker and a modal hammer. The Acoustical Data Acquisition System is used to measure sound in support of structural acoustics research.  The system is based on a PC with a 32-channel analog-to-digital board.

Mechanical Testing Facilities are shared with the Departments of Mechanical and Civil Engineering. These facilities provide testing capabilities for articles ranging from material coupons to large-scale structures. Available test equipment includes 222 kN and 89 kN MTS servo-hydraulic test machines, a 489 kN Instron servo-hydraulic test machine, 267 kN and 107kN Baldwin hydraulic test machines and instrumentation including extensometers, load cells, strain gages and digital data acquisition systems. Additional equipment for experimental stress analysis includes a reflection polariscope and a portable four beam Moiré interferometer.


The Composite Materials Laboratory addresses applied and developmental research in environmental remote sensing, energy and transportation.  This laboratory supports researchers to design and construct aircraft, sensors and systems to enable airborne environmental remote sensing, with the primary funded research addressing ice-penetrating radar that can assist CReSIS researchers in the quest to capture data and create accurate 3-D maps of ice sheets all the way to the bedrock. Sensor suites have also been developed for fine scale measurements of terrestrial ecosystem structure and biomass. Past projects include small and large unmanned aircraft, radar arrays and fairings, wind turbine blades, telescopes and fuel containment devices.  Teams of faculty, staff and students in recent years have designed, fabricated and flight-tested unmanned aircraft and manned aircraft sensor suites, predominantly for remote sensing in Greenland and Antarctica.  ​".

The composite lay-up facility is a 59 m2 “clean” room with a 6.7 m2 lay-up table and 24.3 m3 of –30° C material storage.  The composite tooling and processing laboratory encompasses 128.4 m2, and contains a radial diamond saw, 17.8 cm diamond blade precision sectioning saw, 22.9 cm abrasive cutter, two hydraulic specimen mounting presses, orbital and vibrating polishers and a microhardness tester.  Sample inspection and documentation is aided with a Nikon Epiphot inverted reflected light photomicroscope capable of magnification to 1000X, with Polaroid and 35mm film or digital video capture.  The composite curing facility encompasses 66.3 m2 and includes an autoclave for curing thermoset and thermoplastic composite materials, 107kN and 667 kN electrically heated water cooled platen presses, and electronically controlled ovens. The autoclave is rated to 2.4 MPa and 370° C and has a usable space of 30x30x91 cm.  The smallest oven is rated to 370° C and has a usable space of 51x51x46 cm. and the intermediate oven is rated to 370C and has a usable space of 1.5m x 1 m x .8m.  The composite materials laboratory also houses an electronically controlled walk-in curing oven capable of 260° C, with a usable space of 2.1 x 2 x 6.1 m. 


The Nondestructive Evaluation Laboratory is a shared facility with the Department of Civil Engineering. Available equipment includes a SONIX CSF1000-3X digital 3-axis automated immersion ultrasonic scanning system (pictured at left) with capabilities for A-scan, B-scan and C-scan testing in through-transmission or pulse-echo mode. Current equipment provides a scanning envelope of 0.8x0.9x1.2 m. In addition, the laboratory houses a combination digital acoustic emission acquisition and analysis, and low frequency ultrasonic generation, acquisition and analysis system. Acoustic emission and ultrasonic inspection capabilities are enhanced by state of the art data acquisition software running on PC workstations. Finally, the laboratory has an ultrasonic flaw detector. These systems are used for laboratory and field-testing and inspection of materials and structures.

The Aerospace Vehicle Design Laboratory consists of a general work area equipped with 43 PC workstations with shared high-speed printer support. Specialized design software includes DARCorp AAA, MSC NASTRAN / PATRAN, ASK Satellite Tool Kit, ANSYS FLUENT and Siemens NX.

The Cognitive Control Systems Laboratory is designed as a one-stop research and development facility for small robots and unmanned aircraft. It features student workstations, a 3D printing equipment, and a protected, indoor flight range with a 14-camera VICON tracking system. Faculty and students can design, build, and operate robots and unmanned aircraft in this laboratory, while performing research for the goal of cognitively-inspired intelligent machines.

The Cooperative Unmanned Systems Laboratory (CUSL) is a multi-disciplinary research lab at the University of Kansas (KU) that focuses on the design, development, and testing of teams of unmanned systems for cooperative sensing and cooperative control missions. The research objectives of CUSL include autonomous system development, gust/wake sensing and wind soaring using UAVs, design of cooperative sensing and estimation algorithms, and networked cyber-physical systems.

The Adaptive Aerostructures Laboratory (AAL) maintains unique capabilities supporting the design, fabrication and testing of aerospace structures with adaptive materials. Unlike conventional materials, adaptive materials change some property as a function of an applied control signal or stimulus. The AAL maintains a range of stocks of piezoelectric, electrostrictive, shape-memory-alloy, magnetostrictive, magnetorheological, and other adaptive materials and processing equipment. In addition to supporting work with adaptive materials, the AAL has generated many aerospace “firsts” in subscale uninhabited aerial vehicles, morphing aircraft, missles and munitions. It is currently host to a unique ballistics laboratory where guided bullets and cannon shells are being designed and tested in the 40mm x 10m and 20mm x 5 m gas guns. More than 50 subscale aircraft are housed in the 1200+ sq. feet facility as well as 9 grades of graphite-epoxy composites, 4 grades of Kevlar, composite cure oven, diamond saws and precision post processing machines.

In the Computational Thermal Fluids Laboratory we develop state-of-the art CFD algorithms and tools on modern computer platforms such as CPU and GPU clusters. In addition, we apply these tools to solver challenging fluid dynamics problems such as flow over high lift configurations, helicopters, flow inside jet engines, noise generated by moving bodies, to name just a few. Our research has been supported by AFOSR, DOE, NSF, DARPA, ARO, NASA, ONR. 

The Acoustic Reverberation Suite includes two adjacent, acoustically reverberant (“echoing”) rooms with a 4-foot by 8-foot aperture (“window”) between them.   The suite is designed to measure Transmission Loss (TL) for room or vehicle walls and Absorption Coefficients of sound-absorbing materials used in walls or interior furnishings.  Flat or slightly curved panels are inserted into the aperture to measure the TL when sound—generated and measured in the south room—is transmitted to the north room.  The difference in the measured sound pressure level (SPL) is resolved as the TL on which the panel Noise Isolation Class (NIC) rating is based.  Alternatively, the acoustic absorption of objects placed in one of the rooms may be measured by comparing the room reverberation time with and without the test objects.  This facility is currently primarily used to devise and evaluate alternative test methods associated with noise reduction and for testing the noise reduction qualities of panels fabricated with new materials and/or new noise reduction schemes.  The types of panels to be evaluated include aircraft fuselage side-walls and new building walls.  Coefficients of absorption will be measured for various architectural materials including fabric used for variable reverberation control in auditoriums and similar spaces.


The Measurement, Materials and Sustainable Environment Center was dedicated in fall 2012. This 47,000 net square-foot building provides a unique opportunity for several engineering and campuswide research groups to work together on projects and to develop commercial applications based on project results. The facility is reserved for research purposes and houses the administrative offices of the KU Transportation Research Institute. The $24 million research building is funded in part through a $12.3 million award from the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology Construction Grant Program. The School of Engineering, KU and donors to KU Endowment contributed matching funds for the project.


Garrison Flight Research Center (Airport Hangar #1)

The Garrison Flight Research Center (GFRL) was established in 2004 with the renovation of the existing 18,000 square foot university hangar. The GFRL, now upgraded to 22,000 square feet, has a classroom, machine shop, electronics shop, offices, an AST 4000 fixed base simulator and hangar space for several aircraft. These provide resources for developing intelligent vehicle systems for the flight research of both piloted and uncrewed air vehicles. Additional shop and assembly space, along with a propulsion test cell, are available in an adjacent building, the KUAE “Hawkworks”.​

The Garrison Flight Research Center houses the department’s Cessna 172 Skyhawk and Cessna 182 RG. The Cessna 172 is used both for transportation and research, while the Cessna 182 is dedicated to flight research activities. The Cessna 182 is specifically configured to accommodate in-flight test instrumentation. 

In addition, KUAE has recently invested in an AST 4000 Fixed Base Simulator, produced by American Simulation Technology. This flight simulator is PC based with programmable LCD Instrument Panels and programmable digital aircraft dynamic models. The “vehicle” can accommodate our experimental autopilot module, and offers an out the window projection system and built-in weather and turbulence effects with a programmable control loader. Student designed vehicles may be entered in the flight characteristics module such that vehicles may be “flown” and experienced by the design team.

The Structural Load Frame is a 35' x 35' test bed located in the Garrison Flight Research Center hangar at the Lawrence Airport. This test bed is capable of point loads up to 4,000 pounds. Associated with the test floor is a steel frame capable of static testing full-scale aircraft as large as a Raytheon Baron. The frame is also used to conduct acoustic testing on full-scale aircraft fuselage components.

The Department of Aerospace Engineering maintains a research machine shop with two milling machines, a lathe, sheet metal break and shear equipment, band saws and drill presses. In addition, the School of Engineering maintains a fully-equipped machine shop with multiple milling machines, surface grinders, vertical and horizontal band saws, drill presses, welding equipment, and a paint booth. New acquisitions include a Stratasys Prodigy fused deposition modeling rapid prototyping center and a computer numerically controlled (CNC) mill with five axes of motion and 48" x 20" x 20" travel in translational axes.

Airport Hangar #2

Hangar #2, a 2500 sq ft building at the Lawrence Municipal Airport, houses the Vehicle Manufacturing Facility, the Mal Harned Propulsion Laboratory and the Free Jet Test Stand.

The Vehicle Manufacturing Facility includes all the equipment necessary to manufacture and assemble flight vehicles made of aluminum, wood or laminated composites. Equipment for metal-working include a 4-foot wide break, a 4-foot wide shear, 3 riveting stations with a dedicated compressed air supply, and a drill press. Woodworking is enabled by a small band saw, a jig saw and a band sander in a room specially designed to capture airborne wood particles. The reconfigurable workspace of approximately 2500 sq ft is ideal for assembly of aircraft with wing spans up to 40 feet.

The Mal Harned Propulsion Laboratory consists of an engine test cell capable of testing gas turbine or reciprocating engines with up to 8,000 pounds of thrust. The control room is equipped with basic engine testing instrumentation.


The Free Jet Test Stand is used to conduct experimental research on free jets, plane shear layers, nozzles, diffusers and combustor geometries from low subsonic to supersonic speeds. The high-pressure air supply for this facility is provided by a turbine engine compressor.

Computing and Information Infrastructure

All computing facilities used by AE students (as well as faculty and staff) are PC-based. The School of Engineering Technology Service Center unit purchases, installs and maintains all computers, printers and local area network hardware and software. There are two computer labs dedicated to AE students: the Aerospace Vehicle Design Lab and the Design Lab Annex. Both are secured by cipher locks, the codes for which are given to students in the courses requiring the software installed there. Other AE students have access to the several computer labs made available by the School.

All School computer users have access to a basic package of personal productivity software, to include MS Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint & Access), Internet Explorer, Adobe Acrobat, and MathCad.

The Design Lab and Design Lab Annex include 50 Dell Optiplex 990 design workstations. 
These computers offer:

  • 3.4GHz Core i7-2600 quad-core processors
  • 4GB of memory
  • 250GB hard drive
  • 2 x 512MB Radeon graphics cards which supports 2 monitors each, has 512MB video memory each, and a 400MHz video processor
  • Windows 7 Enterprise OS
  • Siemens NX CAD
  • MSC/NASTRAN & PATRAN structural analysis
  • ANSYS/Fluent fluid analysis
  • MatLab
  • FlowLab (based on Fluent) fluid analysis (AE 345)
  • Unigraphics design software (AE 421)
  • CATIA design software (AE 421)  
  • AeroCAD aircraft modeling (AE 521/522)
  • Advanced Aircraft Analysis aircraft analysis (AE 521/522)
  • Satellite Toolkit orbit analysis (AE 560/765)
  • AGI STK analysis software

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