MSc thesis

Graduating at Control & Simulation

In the MSc programme, a master student at the Control and Simulation (C&S) group eventually needs to choose a specific specialisation for the MSc thesis. To make a well-informed decision about what electives to choose and what thesis topic to work on, it is first important to understand how C&S is structured.

The C&S group is typically characterised by the following four knowledge clusters: 1) Aerospace Guidance, Navigation, and Control (AGNC), 2) Aerospace Human-Machine Systems (AHMS), 3) Communication, Navigation & Surveillance in Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM), and 4) Micro (Unmanned) Aerial Vehicles (MAV).

Control disciplines & courses

The C&S group is all about disciplines found in many facets of control. The main control disciplines focused on at C&S are:

Manual Control
Automatic Control
Supervisory Control
Autonomous Control and CNS/ATM

In a nutshell, these control disciplines are ordered by their decreasing involvement of humans in the control loop. That is, the manual control discipline focuses primarily on studying, identifying, and modelling the human as a neuromuscular control system in order to make informed design and implementation decisions about handling qualities of dynamic systems and simulator fidelity. In automatic control, the capabilities of computer technology are explored to act as clever and fault-tolerant servo mechanisms that close (inner) control loops and automatically stabilize and guide aircraft, but leave the final decision-making and navigation tasks to the human operator. In supervisory control, the human mind (rather than its neuromuscular properties) is considered as an intelligent and highly adaptive control system that can make smart decisions on when and how to intervene when the automation fails. In autonomous control, the focus is on the analysis and design of intelligent computer-controlled systems (and their of functional requirements) featuring very limited or no human involvement, for example, autonomous sense-and-avoid systems.

Application platforms

After choosing a particular control discipline, the theory can then be applied to a specific simulation and/or application platform featuring various facilities/laboratories:

  • Manned aerial vehicles: PH-LAB (Citation aircraft), SIMONA (moving-base simulator), and HMI-Lab (fixed-base simulator)
  • Unmanned aerial vehicles: MAV-Lab and the Flight Arena
  • Air traffic management: ATM-Lab

Finding a MSc thesis assignment

To start your graduation project, you contact one (or more) of the principle investigators associated with each subcluster. This also means that we generally do not accept thesis topics that students come up with themselves. Additionally, an internship can almost never be extended into a thesis topic within our group. Although this may sound harsh, we generally like our students to continue with the work that has been done by other students, and also like to “link” your project to one of the many running projects of our PhD students. From our 20+ years of experience we know that this has many advantages!

First of all, we know a lot about the subject, which makes it easier for us to define a project that can be done using a realistic time schedule of 9 months full time work. Second, much of the materials have been sorted out, the literature is well known, many things are already programmed in MATLAB/Python/C++/Java and/or the simulators, etc. So you don’t need to start from scratch and be programming all the time before you can do something nice and exciting (like doing an experiment with real pilots!). Third, with a PhD student near-by, you will have a ‘supervisor’ (more of a companion) that you can work with together, someone who knows all of the issues, the software, the simulator, etc. All three advantages lead to high-quality work, a project that you will be proud of when you have finished, a project that you did not believe you were capable of doing before, a project that will finish your 5+ years at TU Delft in style. The graduation project, you will see, is the best learning experience you will ever have!

Finally, for all assignments that we have the rule is: first come, first serve. You can only “claim” a particular subject or project when you are capable of starting it very soon. Note that for many students it is often surprising to see what we do at C&S, as the courses that we give explain the basics of our field and only briefly touch upon the (often more exciting) projects that we do. It is therefore very important to carefully explore all possibilities, and think by yourself what exactly do you want to learn, what motivates you to work, do you like theoretical or experimental work, or both, do you want to design something new, or test an interface or device or theory experimentally? On all possible scales and dimensions of projects (e.g., theory/practice, experiment/design, etc.) you have a lot to say. In the end, it is you who decide what project you will start working on, not us!

MSc thesis timeline

In C&S, the first year of the MSc is about doing all courses (core, profile, and electives). In the second year (or Q4 of the first year), you generally start with the internship. After completing all courses (except Research Methodologies and the Literature Survey) and the internship, you can pick an available thesis topic in one of the control disciplines. Then, the timeline (and associated milestones and deliverables) of the MSc thesis is as follows:



Thesis printing arrangement

The C&S department will pay for three copies of every student’s final MSc thesis. This is done in cooperation with the professional print shop located in the Faculty of Architecture (CSinBKCity). In order to get your copies paid for, please visit the Stabilo page on BrightSpace.

Need help or more information?

To get support and advice in organising your courses (list of electives) and possibilities in graduation projects, please contact the C&S track coordinator dr ir Clark Borst.

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C&S aims to be a leading research group in the integration, development and testing of new theories on control, autonomous and cognitive systems (with and without human elements), while addressing industrial and societal needs.


Section Control & Simulation
Department Control & Operations
Faculty of Aerospace Engineering
Delft University of Technology

Kluyverweg 1
2629 HS, Delft

+31 (0)15 27 89471