University of Malta

Research Topics
UOM Main Page
Apply - Admissions 2016
Facebook Twitter Facebook

MSc and PhD Research Topics

Below is a subset of research topics that are being offered by the Institute of Aerospace Technologies for candidates who are interested in reading for an MSc or PhD in Aerospace. Potential candidates are also welcome to propose their own research ideas.

An Optimisation Algorithm for Autonomous Tugs used in Airport Surface Operations

In current operations, tow trucks (aka tugs) are human-operated and are only used to move commercial aircraft outside the gate until they are in a position to taxi towards the runway using their own engine power. This is an inefficient way of using the engines and results in noise and emissions at the airport. This problem can be avoided by using engineless taxiing and one of the solutions is to use autonomous electric tugs to tow aircraft from the gate all the way to the runway and vice-versa.

The goal of this project is to design an algorithm which can efficiently allocate a group of tow trucks to landing or departing aircraft and which calculates the optimal route to be followed during the taxi manoeuver. The algorithm will model the aircraft and tug dynamics and will account for various constraints such as taxiway layouts, taxi speed limits, minimum aircraft separation, pushback times and obstacles along the route.

Funded MSc in Novel Evaporative Cooled Batteries (NEVAC)

Conventional battery pack cooling is inefficient. As the coolant passes over the battery stack, it gradually warms up, and its effectiveness to cool subsequent batteries deteriorates. This causes batteries in the same stack to be at different temperatures. As the battery chemistry is temperature sensitive, battery cells in the same pack but at different temperatures respond differently to charging and discharging cycles. Moreover, the battery cell at the highest temperature degrades at a faster rate thus dictating the life of the pack. To counter this problem, the industry has developed complex and expensive battery management systems that monitors the temperature of each cell and adjusts the individual charging rate. While this protects the cell, it limits the charging rate causing long waiting times in between battery use. This project addresses this problem by developing a novel evaporative cooling mechanism that keeps battery cells in the same stack at a uniform temperature.

Image-based Landing of a Large Commercial Aircraft

Current automatic systems for landing commercial aircraft rely on expensive airport infrastructure (e.g. Instrument Landing System CATII and CATIII). In fact, automatic landing is only possible in a small percentage of airports. This problem can be overcome by designing automatic landing systems which are independent of any specific airport infrastructure. 

The goal of this project is twofold: (a) to design computer vision algorithms which can detect and track runway features using a combination of sensors (including Electro-Optical and Infrared sensors) in order to estimate the position and attitude of the aircraft with respect to the runway and (b) to design guidance algorithms which can keep the aircraft aligned with the runway and enable it to land safely.

Design of a Flight Control and Guidance System for a Fixed-Wing UAV

The goal of this project is to design and test a flight control system for a fixed wing UAV owned by the Institute of Aerospace Technologies. This project will consist of several activities, including:

  • Selection of sensors for aircraft state estimation (position, attitude, etc.)
  • Modeling of aircraft dynamics, sensors and actuators 
  • Design and tuning of lateral and longitudinal control and guidance algorithms (using PID and/or other control techniques)
  • Components and system testing using simulation, hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) and flight testing

A Thermoelectric Energy Recovery for Aircraft (TERA)

Aircraft are designed with a defined electrical requirement, but are expected to remain in service for several decades. Over their lifetime, the airframe may undergo several upgrades in avionics and electrical systems. This may however increase the demand on the electrical generation. Increasing the size of the generator is difficult as this is tightly packed in the engine nacelle. This project addresses this problem by developing a thermoelectric energy recovery system for aircraft; a retrofitable device that recovers energy from the waste heat of exhaust gases of jet engines.

Path Planning for a Swarm of UAVs used in Search and Rescue Operations

During search and rescue operations – whether at land or at sea – it is normally necessary to search a large area. Such a search could be conducted by using a single UAV. However, this would be time-consuming and the mission would be compromised if the UAV is lost. A quicker and more reliable way to conduct such a search is to use a swarm of UAVs which collaborate with each other.

The goal of this project is to design decentralised path planning algorithms for a UAV swarm used in search and rescue operations. These algorithms will enable the UAVs to fly together in a particular pattern or configuration while sharing information with their neighbours, avoiding collisions with each other and with other obstacles, and coping with failures in individual UAVs. These algorithms will be validated via simulation testing and flight testing with a group of multirotor UAVs. 

A 360 Degree Obstacle Detection and Avoidance System for Multirotor UAVs

UAVs are generally equipped with obstacle detection sensors which can sense a limited region in front of the UAV (generally in the direction of flight), resulting in blinds spots around the UAV. This means that the UAV is not protected if it approaches (or is approached by) an obstacle which falls outside the sensors’ field of view and this can lead to collisions with such obstacles and the subsequent loss of the UAV platform.

The goal of this project is to develop an obstacle detection and avoidance system which can provide 360 degree coverage around a multirotor platform. The project will propose a suitable low-cost constellation of sensors (cameras, ultrasonic sensors, LiDAR, laser scanner, etc.) to be installed on the UAV platform and will develop algorithms to fuse the output of these sensors and to detect and avoid obstacles. 

Design of a Multi-Aircraft Trajectory Optimiser

Fuel efficiency is a top priority in aviation. The Flight Management System (FMS) on-board commercial aircraft such as the A320 is capable of optimising the vertical flight path of the aircraft based on its flight plan and cost index. However, it does not take other aircraft into consideration. Therefore, one solution is to design an optimiser which can optimise the flight path of multiple aircraft simultaneously while avoiding conflicts between the aircraft.

This project will build on a previous MSc project where an optimiser has been developed to optimise the trajectory of two commercial aircraft during the climb and descent phases of flight. The goal of this project will be to (a) increase the fidelity of the aircraft models used by the optimiser and (b) to advance the optimiser such that it can cope with more than two aircraft. 

Design and Construction of a UAV Airframe for Maritime Search and Rescue

The design of a UAV is largely dependent on its intended use and application. The goal of this project is to design and construct a UAV airframe that is intended for maritime search and rescue operations. The project will include the following activities:

  • Requirements gathering (range, altitude, endurance, etc.)
  • Conceptual design (configuration, propulsion, sizing, systems, etc.)
  • Payload considerations (sensors, processors, etc.)
  • Detailed airframe design (airfoil selection, control surfaces, etc.)
  • Airframe manufacture
  • Testing (structural testing, propulsion testing, etc.)

A Kinetic Energy Recovery System for a landing Aircraft (KERS)

This project develops a kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) for a landing aircraft. The kinetic energy is stored in a high-speed flywheel. Following the landing, the flywheel can be coupled to the aircraft nose gear (or landing gear) and retrieve the energy stored in the flywheel to taxi the aircraft. While flywheel technology has already taken place in high performance automotive sports such as F1, its application to aviation has not been considered. This project aims to investigate the challenges specific to the application of KERS technology to aircraft with the ability of retrofitting the technology with minor disruption to existing aircraft systems.

Electric Energy Recovery and storage System for Aircraft (EERS)

As the benefits of more electric aircraft become more obvious, electric taxiing is likely to become a reality. Electric taxiing includes the addition of an electrical machine into the aircraft wheels. While on taxiing the machine serves as a motor to drive the aircraft, upon landing this can serve as a generator to recover electrical energy. This project develops an electrical energy recovery system (EERS) for such a system, through the use of super capacitors and batteries. This project aims to investigate the challenges specific to the application of EERS technology to aircraft with the ability of retrofitting the technology with minor disruption to existing aircraft systems.

IAT Timetables



Institute of Aerospace Technologies Timetables

Radio Mocha Malta

On Saturday, 7th October Dr Jason Gauci, Dr Robert Camilleri and Professor David Zammit Mangion we'll be on Radju Malta discussing with Danielle the research being done at the Institute. We will be on air at 11.05 a.m. during the programme "Radio Mocha Malta".

Interview - Twelve to 3

Institute of Aerospace Technologies Academics interviewed on Twelve to 3 television programme


Last Updated: 11 July 2017

Log In back to UoM Homepage