This article is about the physical phenomenon. For other uses, see Slipstream (disambiguation).
Look up slipstream in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Seed dispersal by the slipstream of a passing car.

A slipstream is a region behind a moving object in which a wake of fluid (typically air or water) is moving at velocities comparable to the moving object, relative to the ambient fluid through which the object is moving.[1] The term slipstream also applies to the similar region adjacent to an object with a fluid moving around it. "Slipstreaming" or "drafting" works because of the relative motion of the fluid in the slipstream.

A slipstream created by turbulent flow has a slightly lower pressure than the ambient fluid around the object. When the flow is laminar, the pressure behind the object is higher than the surrounding fluid.

The shape of an object determines how strong the effect is. In general, the more aerodynamic an object is, the smaller and weaker its slipstream will be. For example, a box-like front (relative to the object's motion) will collide with the medium's particles at a high rate, transferring more momentum from the object to the fluid than a more aerodynamic object. A bullet-like profile will cause less turbulence and create a more laminar flow.

A tapered rear will permit the particles of the medium to rejoin more easily and quickly than a truncated rear. This reduces lower-pressure effect in the slipstream, but also increases skin friction (in engineering designs, these effects must be balanced).

The term "slipstreaming" describes an object traveling inside the slipstream of another object (most often objects moving through the air though not necessarily flying). If an object is inside the slipstream behind another object, moving at the same speed, the rear object will require less power to maintain its speed than if it were moving independently. In addition, the leading object will be able to move faster than it could independently, because the rear object reduces the effect of the low-pressure region on the leading object.


Slipstreaming, also known as drafting is important in a number of contexts, including:

Spiral slipstream

Spiral slipstream (also known as spiraling slipstream, propwash in the US, or just slipstream in the UK) is a spiral-shaped slipstream formed behind a rotating propeller on an aircraft. The most noticeable effect resulting from the formation of a spiral slipstream is the tendency to yaw nose-left at low speed and full throttle (in centerline tractor aircraft with a clockwise-rotating propeller.) This effect is caused by the slipstream acting upon the tail fin of the aircraft: the slipstream causes the air to rotate around the forward-aft axis of the aircraft, and this air flow exerts a force on the tail fin, pushing it to the right. To counteract this, some aircraft have the front of the fin (vertical stabilizer) slightly offset from the centreline so as to provide an opposing force that cancels out the one produced by the slipstream, albeit only at one particular (usually cruising) speed, an example being the Hawker Hurricane fighter from World War II.

See also


Specific references
General references
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