What Are the 2 Types of Airfoil? A Comprehensive Guide

Airfoils play a crucial role in the aerodynamics of aircraft and are essential for generating lift. Understanding the different types of airfoils is fundamental to designing and optimizing aircraft performance. This comprehensive guide aims to explore the two primary types of airfoils, namely the symmetric and the cambered airfoil, delving into their characteristics, applications, and the effects they have on lift and drag. By gaining an in-depth understanding of these airfoil types, engineers and aviation enthusiasts can enhance their knowledge of aerodynamics and make informed decisions when it comes to aircraft design and performance.

Definition And Importance Of Airfoils In Aerodynamics

Aerodynamics, an essential branch of physics, revolves around the study of how objects interact with the flow of air. Within this field, airfoils play a crucial role in various applications. An airfoil is a streamlined shape, often resembling a wing, designed to generate lift as it moves through the air.

The importance of airfoils lies in their ability to create different aerodynamic forces. When an airfoil moves through the air, it creates a pressure difference between the upper and lower surfaces. This pressure difference leads to the generation of lift, the force that opposes gravity and enables flight. Additionally, airfoils also generate drag, a resisting force that acts on an object moving through a fluid.

Understanding the principles and design of airfoils is crucial in aviation, as it directly impacts aircraft performance and efficiency. Airfoil design affects aspects such as lift-to-drag ratio, stall characteristics, and maneuverability. Engineers carefully optimize airfoils to ensure maximum lift with minimal drag, resulting in safer and more efficient flight.

Whether it is conventional airfoils used in traditional aircraft or symmetrical airfoils utilized in aerobatics and unmanned aerial vehicles, a comprehensive understanding of their definition and importance in aerodynamics is fundamental in advancing aviation technology.

The Conventional Airfoil: Understanding Its Design And Function

The conventional airfoil is one of the two main types of airfoils used in aerodynamics, along with the symmetrical airfoil. It is characterized by its curved upper surface and a flat or slightly curved lower surface. The design of the conventional airfoil creates an imbalance in the airflow, resulting in lift generation.

The primary function of the conventional airfoil is to generate lift and control drag. When air flows over the curved upper surface, it travels faster compared to the air passing below the airfoil. According to Bernoulli’s principle, the faster-moving air generates lower pressure, creating an upward force or lift. Simultaneously, the curved shape creates a downwards air deflection, which helps in controlling drag.

The design of the conventional airfoil allows it to generate higher lift coefficients, making it ideal for aircraft applications. The curved upper surface enables the airfoil to create more lift at higher angles of attack, making it suitable for takeoff and landing. Conventional airfoils are commonly used in the wings and control surfaces of various aircraft, including commercial planes, private jets, and military aircraft.

The Symmetrical Airfoil: An Examination of Its Characteristics and Applications

The symmetrical airfoil is a type of airfoil that possesses the same shape and curvature on both its upper and lower surfaces. Unlike conventional airfoils, which are cambered and produce lift due to the difference in surface shape, symmetrical airfoils generate lift solely by angling the wing relative to the oncoming airflow. This design characteristic makes them particularly useful in certain applications.

One of the primary advantages of symmetrical airfoils is their ability to create equal amounts of lift at varying angles of attack. This means that they maintain consistent lift capabilities even when the wing is tilted at high angles, a characteristic vital for aerobatic maneuvers and stunts performed by aircraft in activities like airshows and acrobatics.

Furthermore, because symmetrical airfoils do not have a camber, they demonstrate a neutral pitching moment. This aspect makes them highly maneuverable and responsive, allowing pilots to easily control the aircraft’s pitch. As a result, symmetrical airfoils find extensive use in the design of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which require precise control and stability for various missions, including surveillance and reconnaissance.

Overall, the symmetrical airfoil’s unique characteristics grant it significant importance in applications that demand high maneuverability, reliable lift performance at varying angles, and precise control. Its versatility makes it a valuable choice for aircraft designed for acrobatics and UAVs where stability and control are critical factors.

Lift And Drag Forces: How Airfoils Generate Lift And Control Drag

A key aspect of airfoils is their ability to generate lift and control drag. Lift is the upward force exerted on an aircraft that allows it to overcome gravity and stay airborne. Drag, on the other hand, is the resistance encountered by the aircraft as it moves through the air. Both of these forces play crucial roles in the performance and efficiency of an aircraft.

The design and shape of an airfoil are instrumental in generating lift and controlling drag. When air flows over an airfoil, it creates a pressure difference between the upper and lower surfaces. This pressure difference results in an upward force, known as lift. The curved upper surface of the airfoil, coupled with the slightly flatter lower surface, creates this pressure difference by accelerating the airflow over the top and slowing it down underneath.

In addition to lift, airfoils also experience drag, which is the resistance to motion caused by the airflow. Drag can be divided into two types: parasite drag and induced drag. Parasite drag includes the friction drag caused by the friction between the air and the surface of the airfoil and the form drag caused by the shape of the airfoil. Induced drag, on the other hand, is generated as a byproduct of lift production.

Understanding how airfoils generate lift and control drag is essential in designing efficient and high-performance aircraft. By optimizing the shape and characteristics of airfoils, engineers can improve the overall aerodynamic efficiency of aircraft and enhance their flight capabilities.

Key Features And Differentiating Factors Between Conventional And Symmetrical Airfoils

The key features and differentiating factors between conventional and symmetrical airfoils play a crucial role in the performance and application of airfoils in aerodynamics. Conventional airfoils have a curved upper surface and a flat or slightly curved lower surface. This asymmetrical design creates a pressure difference, generating lift as the airflow travels faster over the curved upper surface. They are commonly used in a variety of aircraft, including commercial planes, as they provide efficient lift and stability.

On the other hand, symmetrical airfoils have identical upper and lower surfaces, making them more balanced in terms of lift and drag under both positive and negative angles of attack. The symmetric design allows for better maneuverability at a wider range of angles, making them ideal for aerobatic maneuvers and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Unlike conventional airfoils, symmetrical airfoils have lower lift coefficients and produce more drag, but their versatility in both positive and negative angles allows for more precise control and maneuverability.

Understanding the key features and differentiating factors between these two types of airfoils is essential for selecting the appropriate design based on specific aerodynamic requirements and applications.

Real-World Applications: Exploring The Use Of Conventional Airfoils In Aircraft Design

Conventional airfoils play a pivotal role in aircraft design, facilitating optimal flight performance and safety. In this subheading, we delve into the real-world applications where conventional airfoils prove indispensable.

One crucial application of conventional airfoils is in commercial aviation. For passenger planes, these airfoils are specifically designed to provide sufficient lift at low speeds during takeoff and landing. The carefully crafted shape allows for smooth airflow over the wings, effectively generating lift and ensuring a safe ascent and descent.

Additionally, conventional airfoils are integrated into military aircraft for various purposes. Stealth bombers and fighter jets utilize these airfoils to enhance maneuverability, reduce drag, and improve stability. The unique design of conventional airfoils enables these aircraft to achieve high speeds and execute complex aerial maneuvers efficiently.

Furthermore, conventional airfoils are also utilized in cargo planes, gliders, and helicopters. Each of these aircraft requires specific airfoil designs to achieve their respective objectives, whether it be efficient transportation of cargo or sustained flight without engine power.

In summary, the real-world applications of conventional airfoils are vast and diverse, providing critical contributions to the aerospace industry’s overall functionality and safety.

Real-World Applications: Exploring The Use Of Symmetrical Airfoils In Aerobatics And Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)

Symmetrical airfoils play a crucial role in aerobatics and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) due to their unique characteristics and capabilities. In aerobatics, where extreme maneuvers are performed, symmetrical airfoils provide balanced lift and are ideal for inverted flight. These airfoils allow pilots to execute maneuvers such as rolls, spins, and loops with precision and control.

Additionally, UAVs heavily rely on symmetrical airfoils for stability and maneuverability. The symmetrical shape of these airfoils allows UAVs to fly in any orientation, making them versatile and agile. This characteristic is particularly important for drones used in aerial photography, surveillance, and package delivery.

Furthermore, symmetrical airfoils offer low drag, making them more efficient in high-speed applications. They are also less sensitive to changes in angle of attack compared to conventional airfoils, which aids in maintaining stability during maneuvers.

In summary, symmetrical airfoils are paramount in both aerobatics and UAVs due to their balance, versatility, and stability. These airfoils enable pilots and operators to perform intricate maneuvers and achieve enhanced control, making them an essential component in these applications.


1. What are the two types of airfoil?

There are two primary types of airfoils: symmetrical and cambered. Symmetrical airfoils have the same curvature on both the top and bottom surfaces, while cambered airfoils have a curved top surface and a relatively flat bottom surface.

2. How do symmetrical airfoils differ from cambered airfoils?

Symmetrical airfoils have no lift at zero angle of attack, meaning they require some angle of attack to generate lift. On the other hand, cambered airfoils can generate lift even at zero angle of attack due to the asymmetrical shape of their upper and lower surfaces.

3. What are some applications of symmetrical airfoils?

Symmetrical airfoils are commonly used in aerobatic aircraft, as they allow for more maneuverability and can provide precise control at different angles of attack. They also find applications in certain drone designs and wind turbine blades.

4. Where are cambered airfoils typically utilized?

Cambered airfoils are widely used in commercial aircraft, as they offer greater lift efficiency at lower speeds. These airfoils help generate the necessary lift to keep airplanes aloft during takeoff and landing, as well as cruising at various altitudes. They are also found in propeller blades for general aviation aircraft.


In conclusion, understanding the two types of airfoils is essential for anyone interested in the principles of flight and aircraft design. The symmetrical airfoil, with its equal curvature on both the upper and lower surfaces, is commonly used in applications that require symmetric lift, such as stunt planes. On the other hand, the cambered airfoil, with its curved upper surface and flat lower surface, generates more lift at lower speeds and is commonly used in commercial aircraft. By comprehensively exploring these types of airfoils, we can gain a deeper understanding of their respective advantages and applications, contributing to the advancement of aviation technology and aeronautical engineering.

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