Cal Poly Aerospace Low Speed Wind Tunnel

Location: 41B-139
Coordinator: Dr. Graham Doig


Give now to support the Wind Tunnel Lab

 Dr. Graham Doig and Cal Poly Aero students show you around the new wind tunnel lab and explain the new Rolling Road donated by Dan Gurney's All American Racers.

Aero students Matt Paul, Kinsie Ward, and the Design Build Fly team with their wind tunnel stories.

The Aerospace Department’s Low Speed Wind Tunnel is a teaching and research facility located in Building 41B. For general or commercial inquiries, contact lab director Dr. Graham Doig, | 805-756-1391

Wind Tunnel Specifications:
Top speed: 130mph (190ft/s, 58m/s)
Moving ground (rolling road) belt top speed (2016): 100mph (147ft/s, 45m/s)
Test section: 4ft (w) x 3ft (h) ( 1.22m x 0.91m), 14ft length (4.3m) with ground boundary layer suction over moving ground plane.
Instrumentation: 6-component force balance and position control, 64-channel Scanivalve pressure measurement, 3-axis wake probe traverse for pressure/hot wire measurements, TSI stereo PIV system (2016), custom Labview interface for DAQ.



Cal Poly’s Low Speed Wind Tunnel lab has been a workhorse for the department for decades, serving hundreds of students coming through the aeronautical program under the guidance of the late Dr. Jin Tso and now Dr. Graham Doig – many of our alums have fond memories of climbing on and in the wind tunnel to install models and take measurements, and a host of them have gone on to careers in aerodynamics with NASA, Boeing, Northrup Grumman, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and many others.

We need to keep our facility modern and capable in this fast-moving industry, developing closer ties with industry as we partner with new companies in California’s disruptive automotive industry and the booming unmanned aircraft arena.

With the moving ground now physically in place and ongoing electrical upgrades to allow full operation, things really are off to a flying start – particularly with a $50,000 gift facilitated by Jim Frank, Cal Poly AERO alum and President of the Raintree Foundation, and the donation of $10,000 of aluminum extrusions from Futura Industries - a close partner of Cal Poly through our Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering department – which enabled the construction of our new test section.


Cal Poly Wind Tunnel Supporters

What’s new?

The department is supporting a major initiative to refurbish the facility, due for completion in 2016/17  – for instance, cutting-edge techniques now mean that we don’t always have to take thousands of readings with probes just to figure out what the air flow is doing around a scale model, we can now use lasers with high speed cameras and other non-intrusive techniques to find out what the flow is doing in 3 dimensions – essential information for any designer.

  • Greatly improved flow quality and new top speed

  • Particle Image Velocimetry System (stereo) for 3d velocity fields

  • New accurate force balance and automated model position control

  • Bigger, better modular test section with full optical access on 3 sides 

The donation of a moving ground plane or “rolling road” from Dan Gurney’s All American Racers in Santa Ana kick-started the initiative – John Fabijanic, a lecturer at Cal Poly’s Mechanical Engineering department and advisor to the Cal Poly Formula SAE club, facilitated the handover, having previously worked for AAR on Le Mans and Indy Cars. It’s not just a glorified treadmill, the industrial-strength belt can hit 100mph and needs a suction fan to hold it in laser-aligned position: that creates a lot of friction, so there’s also a cooling circuit running too… a fine line!

The moving ground will support automotive aerodynamic research as well as student-led development by Cal Poly’s Formula SAE teams, Supermileage 1200mpg car, 65mph human-powered vehicle, and a solar-powered car to break a world land speed record!

Formula SAE PROVE Lab - world's fastest solar car
Cal Poly Supermileage Human powered vehicle

Lab director Dr. Graham Doig says “We want to offer students the closest-possible experience of a real-world aerodynamic research and development program, and that means using the tools and techniques our graduates will use in their careers. With facilities that are capable of producing reliable test results that can lead to new technologies, we want companies to partner with us so our students can work on challenges at the cutting edge of aerodynamics. With a new focus on integrated computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulation and wind tunnel testing programs, our goal is to keep Cal Poly at the forefront in terms of the student learn-by-doing experience.

ME junior Andrew Furmidge has been employed as lead designer of a completely new test section, working with a team of grad and undergrad students from the Aero department ; “An automotive and aeronautical wind tunnel is a  very rare thing. Once the rolling road is fully operational…students working on research projects and clubs like Formula SAE will have real-life evidence that not only backs up their predictions, but also demonstrates their skill at operating tools and running experiments.”

Furmidge adds “I’ve learned top-down design from building and designing the new wind tunnel test section, a much bigger project than we would ever tackle in any class. The project has taught me how to use CAD software efficiently and thoroughly. I've learned that the designs you manufacture may not turn out the way you intended them to be - you find quick, clever ways to correct this!”

Students in the cal poly wind tunnel lab

Take a look inside the lab!

How you can help!

We’ve come a long way, but there’s still a lot to do to get the lab up to speed, and with your generous support, we can guarantee that students can gain vital experience with:

  • Completely new lab-based, learn by doing undergraduate class experiences based around unique, creative and innovative projects.  
  • Working with new technologies such as 3d printing in metal and plastic to test novel futuristic, efficient aircraft configurations that wouldn’t have been possible even a decade ago.
  • Earn-by-doing experiences through internships and design/build projects that support student learning while they work as laboratory assistants on research and testing projects.
  • Meaningful development programs in major Design/Build/Fly and Design/Build/Drive projects – the sooner we can complete work on the lab, the sooner our teams can take advantage of their new competitive edge at AIAA, SAE and Ecomarathon competitions!



If you want to personally help us keep Cal Poly’s aeronautical program at the leading edge, give to support Learn By Doing! Many companies offer gift-matching and donations are tax-deductible.

Click here to go to Cal Poly’s secure donation page

All donations over $100 will also let you have your name or message lasered into the first moving ground belt for its official commissioning in 2017 – your name at 100mph!

Individual donors giving over $500 will also receive a 3d printed model of the wind tunnel and an invitation to the formal re-launch event in 2017.

For offline gifts, inquiries, or discussions of major naming-rights possibilities for the lab, contact Dr. Graham Doig directly,, or on 805-756-1391.


Cal Poly Low Speed Wind Tunnel