2015-06 Bacheloropdracht: Besturingssysteem voor onbemande gevechtsvliegtuigen

Master assignment: the feasibility of unmanned combat aircraft


In the past decades, thousands of unmanned aircraft (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or UAVs) were built. They are used for surveillance, inspection of oil pipelines, and other purposes. UAVs can also carry weapons and are then called Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles or UCAVs. Present-day UCAVs are only suitable for attacking targets on the ground, not targets in the air, and then only if there is no serious enemy opposition. The main reason for this is that UCAVs cannot react well to unexpected situations. Controlling these aircraft from the ground is cumbersome; the UCAV basically has to fly a largely pre-determined course.

The University of Twente (UT) and the National Aerospace Laboratory (NLR) are developing a control system that should make UCAVs at least as flexible as manned aircraft; the Semi-Direct Control System or SDCS. This should make it possible to employ UCAVs in new roles, and even give them major advantages over manned aircraft with regard to, for example, maneuverability and endurance. These attributes should make SDCS-equipped UCAVs especially useful for engaging so-called air targets: manned and unmanned enemy aircraft, helicopters and cruise missiles. However, a thorough assessment of the capabilities and limitations of UCAVs equipped with SDCS has not yet been made.

The assignment

Determine the potential capabilities and limitations of UCAVs equipped with SDCS compared to manned aircraft, concentrating on their use against air targets. Also, document the way in which you execute this assignment in the form of a methodology that can be used in future studies.

This assignment can be split up in the following actions:

1: Determine the characteristics that determine the capabilities of manned and unmanned aircraft for engaging air targets.

2: Determine a notional configuration of an SDCS-equipped UCAV.

3: Design two or three scenarios for the operational deployment of SDCS-equipped UCAVs:

  • A scenario in which the capabilities of SDCS-equipped UCAVs can likely be exploited best.
  • A scenario that is representative of the challenges faced in engaging air targets in the coming forty years.
  • A scenario in which the limitations of SDCS-equipped aircraft are most prominent.

4: Compare the potential performance of SDCS-equipped UCAVs in each of the three scenarios with that of manned and unmanned aircraft.

5: Based on your work, design a general methodology for assessing the capabilities of SDCS-equipped UCAVs.


NLR, Amsterdam.


As soon as possible.

What kind of student are we looking for?

Discipline: Mechanical Engineering, Industrial Engineering & Management, or Applied Physics, preferably with the Minor Aerospace Engineering.

Passion: aerospace.

Competencies: quick understanding of new knowledge, able to integrate various disciplines, able to communicate with experts without being one, a certain creativity.

More information

Dr. Hans Heerkens, UT, phone: +31-53-4893493, email: j.m.g.heerkens@utwente.nl