Aerodynamics of Drones for Offshore Wind Farm Monitoring

4-year PhD with Integrated Studies.

Aim of the project. The aim of the project is to investigate, through bio-inspired fundamental research, a mechanism to exploit wind gusts to keep small flyers afloat. Recent work led by Viola and published in Nature (, reveals that the dandelion exploits a highly porous wing to form a fluid vortex, which has never been observed before, and that slows down its descent velocity. It also revealed that the dandelion exploits wind gusts to increase endurance, but the underlying mechanism is yet to be fully understood. Computational fluid dynamics simulations will be undertaken to study this uplifting mechanism and to underpin the design of a dandelion-inspired drone: the dandidrone.

Industrial context. Offshore wind energy is set to rise nearly tenfold in the next 10 years, and up to 1 TW in 2050. This is equivalent to a wind farm of the size of the North Sea. To monitor such a wide offshore area remotely, it will be necessary to develop aerial sensors with a step increase in resiliency and endurance. Nature offers ingenious solutions to this challenge. In fact, plant seeds maximise their endurance and dispersal to ensure the proliferation of the plant. This project will address this industry-driven challenge of maximising endurance of small flyers by undertaking fundamental research inspired by the most successful of the plant dispersal mechanisms: that one of the dandelion seed.

Fluid Mechanics Context. Similar mechanisms, where a passive body scavenges energy from flow fluctuations for locomotion, have already been observed. For example, some bodies with ad-hoc shapes such as pyramids can passively hover by exploiting oscillating flow. With an akin mechanism, swimmers scavenge flow fluctuations generated by other swimmers or obstacles to swim against the current. Researchers at MIT (, for example, showed that a dead fish can swim upstream in the wake of a semi cylinder. Understanding these mechanisms that exploit the environmental flow fluctuations to gain altitude or to swim upstream are paramount to enable new engineering solutions for zero- and low-energy transport.

The student will join the Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Wind and Marine Energy Systems and Structures (WAMESS). Please see for more information on the programme of study including the list of taught courses.  

To apply please visit here:

Further Information:

The University of Edinburgh is committed to equality of opportunity for all its staff and students, and promotes a culture of inclusivity. Please see details here:

Closing Date: 

Monday, February 28, 2022
Halo Vortex Ring Lifts Dandelion Seeds
Halo Vortex Ring Lifts Dandelion Seeds

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.


Tuition fees + stipend are available for Home/EU and International students.

Applications are also welcomed from self-funded students, or students who have secured a scholarship from elsewhere. Please note that the Prescribed Period of study is 4 years.  

Further information and other funding options.

Informal Enquiries: