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School of Engineering and Applied Science PhD Studentship (3 Years)

Aston University - Geometric Control of Autonomous Vehicle

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Birmingham
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: £15,009 including a fee bursary to cover the Home/EU fees rate
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 24th January 2020
Closes: 31st May 2020

Supervisor: Professor William Holderbaum

Key words: Energy, Hamiltonian Mechanics, Control, Motion Planning

Degree Programme: PhD in Mechanical Engineering

Applications are invited for a three year Postgraduate studentship funded by the School of Engineering and Applied Science, to be undertaken within the Sustainable Environment Research Group Research Group at Aston University.  The successful applicant will join an established experimental group working on Energy and Robotics. 

The position is available to start in either April or July, subject to negotiation

Financial Support

This studentship includes a fee bursary to cover the Home/EU fees rate.  Home students will also receive a maintenance allowance of £15,009 in 2019/20 (subject to eligibility). 

This project is only available to Home/EU students.

Background to the Project

Energy Efficient Controls, Integrable Hamiltonian Systems, Lie Group

The project will focus primarily on an Autonomous Underwater Vehicles: The general research theme involves theoretical and experimental study of Underwater Vehicles with emphasis on advanced motion control for unmanned marine vehicles. This includes control of highly manoeuvrable and underactuated vehicles, collision avoidance methods, and formation control. Considered motion control scenarios include target tracking as well as path following, tracking, and manoeuvring. The Lie group and Hamiltonian systems is natural in this setting. This enables one to plan large manoeuvres using an optimal controller.  Current applications and motivations include:

  • Spacecraft attitude problem
  • Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV)
  • Robot

The PhD will study affine control systems with finite dimensional Lie groups. This research encompasses theoretical and new developments in the area of motion control of autonomous vehicles, with an emphasis on global motion planning. We will use these equations describing the kinematics of the system and the Maximum principle of optimal control to derive the equations of motion for the autonomous vehicles. Analysis of these equations are global, for systems defined on Lie groups, and comprises the following:

  • Trajectory-tracking and path-following of autonomous vehicles.
  • Identify globally defined equilibrium solutions. This avoids the use of complicated numerical techniques to identify periodic/bounded equilibria.
  • Stability of equilibria.

Person Specification

The successful applicant should have been awarded, or expect to achieve, a Masters degree in a relevant subject with a 60% or higher weighted average, and/or a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree (or an equivalent qualification from an overseas institution) with pure mathematics and physics as major subjects. Preferred skill requirements include knowledge/experience of Hamiltonian Mechanics, Group Theory, Topology, Geometry.   

We would particularly like to encourage applications from women seeking to progress their academic careers. Aston University is committed to the principles of the Athena SWAN Charter, recognised recently by a prestigious Silver Award to EAS, and we pride ourselves on our vibrant, friendly and supportive working environment and family atmosphere.

Contact information

For formal enquiries about this project contact Professor William Holderbaum by email at

Submitting an application

Details of how to submit your application, and the necessary supporting documents can be found here

If you require further information about the application process please contact the Postgraduate Admissions team at

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