TU Delft

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Originele vacaturetekst

PhD project Distributed sensing and processing for embodied intelligence of flapping wing drones

Job description

Aerial robots are increasingly used in urban environments, for search and rescue applications, maintenance and inspection of infrastructure, police surveillance and law enforcement. In future years, unmanned aerial robots (UAVs) are expected to play a more prominent role in our daily lives, delivering parcels, meals, medical kits, deploying sensors in the environment and creating an airborne network of systems communicating with one another. Heading in that direction, UAVs will need to overcome some of the existing challenges related to endurance and flight stability in the presence of obstacles and wind gusts.

This project will investigate new ways in which UAVs can leverage embodied intelligence and new sensing techniques to improve flight endurance and resilience in the presence of obstacles in cluttered environments. The technological development will include the design of a new mechatronic system that uses intelligent structural adaptation (morphing) fused with new micro sensors, to aid navigation in complex constrained environments.

The biological world is, in many aspects, a source of inspiration for Robotics, and a key driver for research carried at the TU Delft MAVLab. The goal of the project is to createa bio-inspired mechatronic system that integrates newly available sensors on the bodyto improve the overall flight performance.

The project will include a collaboration with the group based at TU Delft EEMCS Else Kooi Lab, where smart sensors are developed on silicon-like skins to measure a variety of data like temperature, air flow, light. By combining arrays of multiple micro-sensors on the UAV body, the flying robot will be equipped with a ‘sensorized’ skin that will provide information on the surroundings. Such distributed sensing will then improve the robot decision-making for more efficient navigation and longer battery life. For example, the sensor skin could enable the exploitation of updrafts, or ease the detection of nearby obstacles.


We are looking for a candidate with the following:

  • MSc degree in Robotics, Aerospace/Mechanical/Micro Engineering, Mechatronics, or a related discipline.
  • A passion for designing and prototyping robots and intelligent systems, not only focusing on the AI and software, but hands-on development, integration and testing.
  • Programming experience, e.g. in MATLAB, Python or C/C++.
  • Excellent team-working, analytical and communication skills.
  • Ability to work independently and willingness to familiarise with new research domains (embodied intelligence, mechatronics, mechanical design, aerospace, AI, control).
  • Previous experience of working in a research lab and doing experimental work will be advantageous, e.g. flight testing, rapid prototyping.
  • Motivation to work in a multi-disciplinary team and collaborate across different research domains.
Conditions of employment

TU Delft offers PhD-candidates a 4-year contract, with an official go/no go progress assessment after one year. Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, increasing from € 2395 per month in the first year to € 3061 in the fourth year. As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. The TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment with an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor. The Doctoral Education Programme is aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills.

The TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, discounts on health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. For international applicants we offer the Coming to Delft Service and Partner Career Advice to assist you with your relocation.

TU Delft (Delft University of Technology)

Delft University of Technology is built on strong foundations. As creators of the world-famous Dutch waterworks and pioneers in biotech, TU Delft is a top international university combining science, engineering and design. It delivers world class results in education, research and innovation to address challenges in the areas of energy, climate, mobility, health and digital society. For generations, our engineers have proven to be entrepreneurial problem-solvers, both in business and in a social context. At TU Delft we embrace diversity and aim to be as inclusive as possible (see our Code of Conduct). Together, we imagine, invent and create solutions using technology to have a positive impact on a global scale.

Challenge. Change. Impact!

Faculty Aerospace Engineering

The Faculty of Aerospace Engineering at Delft University of Technology is one of the world’s most highly ranked (and most comprehensive) research, education and innovation communities devoted entirely to aerospace engineering. More than 200 science staff, around 250 PhD candidates and over 2,700 BSc and MSc students apply aerospace engineering disciplines to address the global societal challenges that threaten us today, climate change without doubt being the most important. Our focal subjects: sustainable aerospace, big data and artificial intelligence, bio-inspired engineering and smart instruments and systems. Working at the faculty means working together. With partners in other faculties, knowledge institutes, governments and industry, both aerospace and non-aerospace. Working in field labs and innovation hubs on our university campus and beyond.

Click here to go to the website of the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering.

Additional information

We offer the opportunity to do scientifically challenging research in a multi-disciplinary research group. TU Delft strives to raise the proportion of women in its workforce and explicitly encourages applications from qualified women. The appointment will be for a period of 4 years. As an employee of the TU Delft you will receive a competitive salary, as well as excellent secondary benefits in accordance with the Collective Agreement (CAO) of the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU).

Assistance with accommodation can be arranged prior to the start date.

Interested candidates should submit their application before the 20th of May.

Please include the following documents in your application: a cover letter along with a detailed curriculum vitae, a separate motivation letter stating why the proposed research topic interests you, electronic links to or copies to selected publications (if applicable), an overview (photos / videos) of possible “hobby projects” in the area of robotics / drones, the summary of your MSc thesis, your MSc and BSc course programs and the corresponding grades, names and addresses of two to three referees.

The successful candidate is expected to start in September 2021, or soon thereafter.

For information about the selection procedure please contact B.M. Markus, email: b.m.markus@tudelft.nl

Application procedure

Are you interested in this vacancy? Please apply before the 20th of May 2021 via the application button and upload your motivation and CV.

  • A pre-employment screening can be part of the selection procedure.
  • Applying for an exemption for specific research and educational areas is an obligatory part of the selection procedure for this vacancy. This exemption must be obtained from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) before an employment contract is agreed upon. Click here for more information.
  • You can apply online. We will not process applications sent by email and/or post.
  • Acquisition in response to this vacancy is not appreciated.
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