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Unmanned Aerial Vehicle: a Design Approach for Maintenance Operations

Master Thesis in Mechanical Engineering – Department of Design, Production and Management

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle: a Design Approach for Maintenance Operations

Company and University description

Aerialtronics designs, produces and services unmanned aircraft systems. In 2014 Aerialtronics successfully launched its 3rd generation system, the Altura Zenith. By collecting aerial data and processing it into valuable information the Zenith platform gives clients valuable insights to make smart business decisions. The Zenith is designed as an advanced information-collecting platform. It’s a high performance-flying server that records, processes and transmits data back to the cloud where analytics turn it into information.

Aerialtronics’ systems can be applied to a wide variety of segments including; Safety & Security, Inspection, Creative, Surveying & Mapping, Agriculture and Research. Aerialtronics has an extensive development road map and is committed to improve the operations of all its customers.

At the University of Twente, the chair of ‘Maintenance Engineering’ is carrying out research in the field of Maintenance Asset Management, Design for Maintenance and Safety. In the research will be involved Alberto Martinetti, who is researching on the improvement of maintenance operations and maintenance policy.

The research challenge

Maintenance is a “wide-ranging subject” that must be reviewed during the entire life-span of the asset. Design, implementation, use, overhaul and modernization and dismantling have to be considered during the design phase to ensure a permanent efficiency improvement [1] and to reduce human errors.

The aim of the research activity is to investigate possible solutions for future rationale maintenance operations of drones/RPASS with a more thorough system analysis & optimization of maintenance plan.

Introduction to the subject

The operation of remotely piloted aircrafts (RPAS) undoubtedly has a great impact on the aviation industry and, in general, on our lives. The rapidly increasing use of RPASS for civilian and for recreational use by a growing number of avid aviation enthusiasts is proving to be a very pioneering and lucrative technological development.

This innovative technological aviation that greatly impacts the aviation industry not only raises many important technical and operational problems but also brings forth many complex social, legal, environmental and safety issues which emanate from operating RPASS in non-segregated airspace for civilian or recreation use.

Moreover the absence of a scheduled maintenance (as strictly required for the aviation industry) and the incomplete regulatory framework and policy as well as the frequency with which RPASs operate in urban areas or in unsegregated airspace, highlight the many risks and potentially catastrophic consequences, which may arise particularly in the light of an air or ground collision.

According to the recent and frequent accidents occurred [2] it is becoming a priority to develop a correct analysis implementing the measurement of data. The development of sensors, network and associated measurement techniques is revolutionizing maintenance: on board measurement techniques, data storage, data mining, data analysis, interpretation of data and prediction of degradation and faults could support the managers during the maintenance operations and reduce the failures.

Description of the activities

The main activities during the research project will covered the topics described below:

Practical details

The student will be supervised by Joost Hezemans, Head of Design at Aerialtronics (company supervisor) and by Alberto Martinetti, assistant professor in the Maintenance Engineering group (academic supervisor). The student will receive a workplace at the University of Twente (in the Horst building). The student is expected to visit the office of the Aerialtronics in Den Haag on average twice a week.

Other details will be discussed during the application process. This process will start with a first meeting to become acquainted with the supervisor(s) for this project. During this meeting the student and the supervisor(s) will decide if there is a good fit between the student, his interests and qualities and the assignment. If this is the case, the final assignment can be started after the official agreement of the Aerialtronics has been received.

MSc thesis project for specialization: Maintenance Engineering and Operations (MEO)
Recommended foreknowledge: Maintenance Engineering & Management (201200146), research methods, statistics, design knowledge
Supervisors: Prof. Dr. ir. Leo van Dongen (chair of Maintenance Engineering); Dr. ir. Alberto Martinetti, Dr. Ir. Mohammad Rajabali Nejad
Client Company: Aerialtronics
Company supervisor: ir. Joost Hezemans
Language requirement: English-speaking students


  1. Mulder W., Hoekstra S., Kokkeler F., Design for maintenance - Guidelines to enhance maintainability, reliability and supportability of industrial products, University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands, 2012 ISBN 978-94-6190-993-0
  2. Kaminski-Morrow D., FBI inquires as Alitalia 777 encounters remote-piloted aircraft, Flight Global, London 2013, http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/fbi-inquires-as-alitalia-777-encounters-remote-piloted-383118/