PhD Position Drive System of a Resonant Flapping Wings Micro Aerial Vehicle

PhD Position Drive System of a Resonant Flapping Wings Micro Aerial Vehicle

Published Deadline Location
25 Oct 29 Nov Delft

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Job description

Agricultural/horticultural products account for 9% of Dutch gross domestic product. Yearly expansion of production involves major challenges concerning labour costs and plant health control. A potential solution is frequent and automated pest/disease monitoring. Although technological developments such as propeller-based drones and robotic arms are in full swing, these are not suitable for vertical horticulture (e.g., tomatoes, cucumbers). A better solution are swarms of bio-inspired Flapping Wings Micro Aerial Vehicles (FWMAVs).

The goal of this project is to develop bio-inspired FW-MAVs for indoor application, to support greenhouse growers in monitoring pest/disease onset detection and localization. More research is needed to develop FW-MAVs with high hovering ability that are capable of carrying dedicated detection equipment. The development of FW-MAVs is a multidisciplinary challenge requiring cross-domain collaboration between several partners, such as growers, biologists, entomologists and engineers with expertise in robotics, mechanics, aerodynamics, electronics, etc. In this project a co-creation-based collaboration is established with all stakeholders involved: academia, industry, horticulture and branch organizations. In this project research area, the biomimicry research group at Inholland will collaborate with the Precision and Microsystems Engineering (PME) department at Faculty 3mE, TU Delft.

The PhD candidate will do research on one of two main project research areas dealing with technical design, testing and prototyping of FW-MAVs. In collaboration with biologist/entomologist and based on the understanding of the flying insect's physiology and flapping wings aerodynamics a resonance based FWMAV was designed. Based on this, come up with innovative concepts and design proposals for a flapping actuation mechanism enabling the realization of small-scale flapping wings drones with high hovering capabilities. The main challenge is actuator design, energy storage and integration to achieve the high energy densities needed for prolonged flight. Design proposals will be supported by analytical and numerical models. You will create a design methodology, realize your FWMAVs prototypes and characterize their performance. You will be trained to use our high-level laboratory with advanced micro-nano manufacturing, imaging and characterization equipment. During the project you will interact and collaborate with other project partners, researchers and local businesses in the horticultural industry. The role also includes coaching and supervise aeronautical/mechanical engineering students (BSc, MSc) who will be involved in the Flappy project through the formulation of student assignments. In addition, you will be involved in the project dissemination activities encompassing conferences participation, giving guest lectures, masterclasses or other input for government, industry of civil society stakeholders. In this position you will be representing the research group both internally and externally. You will be placed 50% of the time at TU Delft and 50% at Inholland (Delft). 


Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)


  • MSc degree in Mechatronics, Mechanical Engineering, Aerospace/Aeronautical engineering, Micro/Nano Engineering, Electrical Engineering or (Engineering) Physics.
  • Experience with actuator design, FEM simulations, microfabrication and advanced micro-manufacturing techniques such as 2D/3D printing. Some experience with electronics is a plus.
  • Command of Matlab, Python and/or C++.
  • Genuine interest for coaching and education.
  • Independent, self-motivated, reliable and eager to learn.
  • Ability to work in a project team and take leadership and responsibility for different research tasks.
  • A curiosity-driven mindset and a passion for (doing) research and education
  • An open personality for cooperation with colleagues and co-supervision of students.

Doing a PhD at TU Delft requires English proficiency at a certain level to ensure that the candidate is able to communicate and interact well, participate in English-taught Doctoral Education courses, and write scientific articles and a final thesis. For more details please check the Graduate Schools Admission Requirements.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 4 years.

Doctoral candidates will be offered a 4-year period of employment in principle, but in the form of 2 employment contracts. An initial 1,5 year contract with an official go/no go progress assessment within 15 months. Followed by an additional contract for the remaining 2,5 years assuming everything goes well and performance requirements are met.

Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, increasing from € 2541 per month in the first year to € 3247 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.


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 as one of our core values and we actively engage to be a university where you feel at home and can flourish. We value different perspectives and qualities. We believe this makes our work more innovative, the TU Delft community more vibrant and the world more just. Together, we imagine, invent and create solutions using technology to have a positive impact on a global scale. That is why we invite you to apply. Your application will receive fair consideration.

Challenge. Change. Impact!


Faculty Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering

The Faculty of 3mE carries out pioneering research, leading to new fundamental insights and challenging applications in the field of mechanical engineering. From large-scale energy storage, medical instruments, control technology and robotics to smart materials, nanoscale structures and autonomous ships. The foundations and results of this research are reflected in outstanding, contemporary education, inspiring students and PhD candidates to become socially engaged and responsible engineers and scientists. The faculty of 3mE is a dynamic and innovative faculty with an international scope and high-tech lab facilities. Research and education focus on the design, manufacture, application and modification of products, materials, processes and mechanical devices, contributing to the development and growth of a sustainable society, as well as prosperity and welfare.

Click here to go to the website of the Faculty of Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering. Do you want to experience working at our faculty? These videos will introduce you to some of our researchers and their work.


  • PhD
  • Engineering
  • 38—40 hours per week
  • €2541—€3247 per month
  • University graduate
  • TUD02976


Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)

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