Jobs @ DistriNet

Software engineering for safe autonomous UAVs

Two open positions:

  • one PhD researcher
  • one postdoctoral researcher

Context: "Safe and trustworthy software for autonomous drones”

In spite of tremendous advances in hardware and software for UAVs, it is recognised, both in industry and in academia, that both safety and autonomy are two prominent requirements – but at the same time prominent challenges – in the area on UAVs. Uncontrolled usage of UAVs can cause – and in fact already has caused – damage to property, and even harm to people. Some hazards can be prevented by ‘mechanical solutions’. Yet, future solutions will require to integrate hardware extensions (advanced sensors, cameras, radios, etc.) with advanced software (object recognition, localization and mapping, etc.) for more advanced safety measures. Unexpected circumstances require the UAV to autonomously handle anomalous situations, adjusting its planning and pursuing its tasks and ensuring safety constraints in other ways.
Rather than building and interfacing individual components in an ad-hoc fashion, this project aims for a well-founded, integrated software engineering approach. We develop a software architecture that is based on the abstraction of a virtual environment (at the same time supporting the coordination of multiple drones) and aim to create situational awareness for the drone. Additionally, the drone behaviour will be modelled and supported through an innovative, adaptive behaviour model that allows to account for safety requirements at the right level of abstraction. An innovative approach for formal specification and run-time verification will ensure trustworthy drone software.


Both positions expect profound knowledge and experience in at least 3 of the following themes:

  • Software engineering
  • Formal software specification and verification
  • Software architectures for autonomous robotics
  • Autonomous agent architectures
  • Multi-agent coordination protocols (distributed planning, auction protocols, etc.)
  • Drone autopilots and protocols (e.g. ArduPilot, Mavlink)
  • Constraint-optimisation, SLAM, uncertainty reasoning (e.g. EKF)
  • Excellent programming skills in (Java, C++, or Python)

Further requirements include

  • a strong track record in education and research
  • a scientific, critical attitude
  • proficiency in English, both in writing and in speaking
  • great communication and social skills, team player
  • an independent working style
  • for the postdoc position: experience and a convincing scientific track record

PhD researcher

The main objective of the PhD position is to do thorough research on an innovative approach for engineering software for trustworthy, safe autonomous drones. The research will be validated in one or more case studies, possibly in collaboration with industry. The study will start from the team's ongoing work on SafeDroneWare, a software engineering approach for autonomous drones, with explicit attention for safety specification and verification.

Postdoctoral researcher

The responsibilities of the postdoc will be to perform, lead and guide PhD research in this area, ánd to strengthen the long-term objectives of the team. The period of appointment is 2 years (with intermediary evaluations).


For more information, and for applying for a position, please contact: Prof. Tom Holvoet

How to apply:

When applying, make sure to include (pdf versions of):

  • a detailed resume (with publications in pdf, if any)
  • a motivational letter specifically referring to the open positions
  • copies of marks and degrees/certificates
  • a list of 3 references that we can contact
  • your MSc and/or PhD thesis in English (or a 5-page summary in English).

Application deadline: January 31, 2017


Working Environment

  • KU Leuven is one of Belgium's leading research institutions
  • the campus offers top-class educational and recreational facilities
  • DistriNet is the premier research group in Belgium on distributed software and software security and collaborates actively with many peer research centers in Europe
  • both the research group and the university provide a dynamic and international environment
  • the working language is English, the knowledge of Dutch is not required
  • Leuven is a lively, language friendly university city located near Brussels airport



Apply spontaneously