Fluid Mechanics of a bio-inspired autonomous vessel

There is a growing need for unmanned vehicles that can operate at sea for long periods of time to monitor the environment, the well-being of biological systems such as corals and fish, and also of offshore installations such as wind farms. These vehicles need to harvest energy from the environment both for propulsion and for their monitor operations.

In the harsh marine environment, a powerful and renewable energy resource that can be exploited is that of ocean waves. Waves leads to periodic flow fluctuations, whose energy can be harvested with passively oscillating foils. An akin mechanisms, for example, is exploited by fish swimming in a school, that exploit the wakes of the neighboring fish to minimize the cost of locomotion. For example, Beal et al. (https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022112005007925) showed with an inspiring experiment that fish are capable of passive locomotion in the wake of an obstacle.

This bio-inspired project aims to investigate the underlying fluid mechanics of passive locomotion in waves and wave-powered propulsion. It will be based on computational fluid dynamics simulations and will deliver a low order model to predict the performances of state-of-the-art wave-powered vehicles. The model will be validated with experiments in Flowave, one of the world’s most sophisticated facilities for combined wind and current tests (https://www.flowavett.co.uk/). The validated model will underpin the design of a new class of more efficient unmanned vehicles.

The project will be undertaken within the Vortex Interaction Collaboratory (VOILAb, http://www.homepages.ed.ac.uk/iviola) and  in close collaboration with the UK leading company AutoNaut (www.autonautusv.com), which generously co-funds the project. 


Further Information: 

Closing Date: 

Sunday, December 31, 2023

Principal Supervisor: 

Assistant Supervisor: 


Minimum entry qualification - an Honours degree at 2:1 or above (or International equivalent) in a relevant science or engineering discipline, possibly supported by an MSc Degree. Further information on English language requirements for EU/Overseas applicants.

The applicant should have an undergraduate degree in Mathematics, Physics, Engineering or equivalent, and a solid fluid mechanics background at undergraduate level.

Experience in computational fluid dynamics is desirable but not necessary.

Applicants from underrepresented groups and that would contribute to improve diversity within VOILAb are particularly encouraged to apply. 


Applications are welcomed from those who have secured their own funding through scholarship, sponsorship or similar.
If you are UK or EU citizen, and you do not have your own funds, please enquire as funds can be found for exceptional candidates with a UK/EU fee status.
If you are an Overseas student (not UK and not EU) and you do not have your own funds, please do not apply now because scholarships for overseas students who wish to start in 2020 have already been allocated. However, keep an eye on our websites in case an opportunity arises, particularly VOILAb, CDT WAMSS and SoE.

Informal Enquiries: