PhD Position on Neuromorphic, Insect-inspired Visual Guidance for Autonomous Drone Navigation

Updated: 19 days ago
Deadline: 25 Jun 2024

Autonomous robots promise to transform our economy and society, thanks to the quick progress in artificial intelligence. However, state-of-the-art AI requires computing devices that are too heavy and energy-consuming. This makes robots heavy and dangerous, and hence unsuitable for many applications.

In the NWO VICI project “Neuromorphic Learning for Advanced Insect-inspired Artificial Intelligence (NL-AI2)”, we will develop a neuromorphic AI that is extremely efficient, as it mimics the sparse and asynchronous processing of the brain. To best demonstrate this technology’s efficiency, the AI will be modelled after insect intelligence and instilled on a resource-restricted drone. This will unlock innumerable new applications and even provides opportunities to learn about nature itself!

Within the project, a PhD position is now available on “Neuromorphic, Insect-inspired Visual Guidance for Autonomous Drone Navigation”. Insects like honeybees are able to navigate over long distances and come back to their hive with very limited neural processing. For this, they make use of both path integration and visual guidance (e.g., using visual landmarks). The topic of the PhD is to develop a neuromorphic visual guidance approach that will enable even very small flying robots to achieve similar navigation feats. The research will involve developing navigation strategies and spiking neural network learning setups. Experiments will first take place in simulation, and then subsequently on a real flying robot – using neuromorphic processing.

The candidate will be guided by dr. C. De Wagter and prof. dr. G.C.H.E. de Croon at the Micro Air Vehicle laboratory (MAVLab), which is part of the Control and Operations department of the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering at TU Delft. They will have access to state-of-the-art tools and facilities needed to conduct their research. They will have the opportunity to collaborate with other researchers from within the laboratory, as well as on an international level.


  • An excellent degree in robotics, artificial intelligence, computer science, or a related subject at Masters level or equivalent.
  • Good programming skills in python and/or C++.
  • Fluency in English.
  • An independent scholar who wants to shape research in the field.
  • An interest in interdisciplinary and collaborative research.


  • Hands-on experience with robot or drone hardware.
  • Previous research experience.
  • Knowledge of drone autopilots and / or ROS.

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 .

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 € 2770 per month in the first year to € 3539 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 a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. 

For international applicants, TU Delft has the Coming to Delft Service . This service provides information for new international employees to help you prepare the relocation and to settle in the Netherlands. The Coming to Delft Service offers a Dual Career Programme  for partners and they organise events to expand your (social) network.

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!

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 270 PhD candidates and close to 3000 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.

For more information about this vacancy, please contact Guido de Croon ([email protected] ).  

Are you interested in this vacancy? Please apply no later than 25 June 2024 via the application button and upload:

  • A curriculum vitae (CV).
  • The names and contact details of two referees (position, professional address, and e-mail).
  • A letter of motivation (max. 1 page).
  • A copy of your master’s degree (including transcripts).
  • It is highly recommended to include samples of your work (reports, previous publications, videos, code, etc.).
  • Please note:  

    • 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.
    • Please do not contact us for unsolicited services.

    For information about the application procedure, please contact Guido de Croon ([email protected] ). 

    Similar Positions