The module descriptors for our undergraduate courses can be found below:

  • Four year Aeronautical Engineering degree (H401)
  • Four year Aeronautical Engineering with a Year Abroad stream (H410)

Students on our H420 programme follow the same programme as the H401 spending fourth year in industry.

The descriptors for all programmes are the same (including H411).


Systems Engineering for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Module aims

This module gives the student an introduction to engineering systems and applies the systems engineering tools to the design of UAVs. In the process, it aims to teach the students how to design and control UAVs, which aerodynamic principles are applicable for UAV flight and to show them their multiple applications. It will also examine the challenges in the wider adoption of UAVs, including operation in controlled airspace and interoperability with piloted aircraft. 

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing this module, you should be able to:    1. assess design requirements and apply system design tools to develop a system design, including an analysis of the function, architecture and key performance issues of major subsystems.   2. apply basic concepts for Systems Engineering such as requirements, interface management, verification and validation, reliability and safety, risk analysis and management, the impact of human factors, and design closure to deliver lifecycle value.   3. determine the design process for fixed-wing and rotary-wing UAVs and apply what has been learnt in the conceptual design of a UAV.    4. critique the complexities and challenges of designing and operating UAVs in controlled airspace and have formed an informed opinion on how legislation and applications in this area will evolve.   5. appraise complex systems and design choices through the analysis of selected case studies.   6. analyse the flight dynamics of a typical UAV configuration (a quadcopter) and to apply these flight dynamics in order to devise a control strategy for the operation of the UAVs. AHEP Learning Outcomes: SM7M, SM8M, EA5m, D9M, EL11M, P12M, P10m 

Module syllabus

Introduction to Systems Engineering: Definition of a system. The need for systems engineering (SE).  Systems Engineering: Need and SE core process; System lifecycle and its stages: concept, definition, design, built, test, operate, and disposal. SE lifecycle processes: Stakeholders; Requirements; Concept of Operations (CONOPs); Technical specifications Quality function deployment; Functional analysis; Trade-off analysis and decision making. The need for UAVs and their operation: An overview of the diverse range of different types of UAVs, their applications. UAVs mission profiles and associated CONOPS. UAVs functional analysis and physical architecture. Systems design: Conceptual, preliminary and detail design. System requirements specification and how they are achieved. Human factors in SE.                                                                                                                                           Conceptual design of UAV systems and capabilities: Mission, Performance, Stability, Control, Cost, Operational, Time, Manufacturing. Fixed-wing vs flapping wing vs rotary wing UAVs. SE technical processes and specialties: System integration, validation, verification and testing. Safety and reliability; Risk and risk analysis techniques. Bio-inspired UAVs and MAVs: What can be learnt in the design of UAVs and MAVs by borrowing from nature and how can the analysis of natural systems support the development of new UAVs, including collaborative and flocking of UAVs.  Case studies: Application of SE to UAV conceptual design in research and industry.  

Teaching methods

The module will be delivered primarily through large-class lectures introducing the key concepts and methods, supported by a variety of delivery methods combining the traditional and the technological.  The content is presented via a combination of slides, whiteboard and visualizer.Learning will be reinforced through tutorial question sheets and computer-based exercises, featuring analytical/modelling tasks representative of those carried out by practising engineers.


This module presents opportunities both for formative and summative assessment.  

You will be formatively assessed through progress tests and tutorial sessions. 

Additional opportunities are provided for you to self-assess your learning via tutorial problem sheets and tutorial computer sessions. 

Summative Assessment takes the form of a written closed-book exam at the end of the module. The exam is specifically formulated to assess design-based learning outcomes in addition to the other learning outcomes for the module.

Assessment type Assessment description Weighting Pass mark
Examination 2-hour closed-book written examination in the Summer term 100% 50%

You will receive feedback on examinations in the form of an examination feedback report on the performance of the entire cohort.

You will receive feedback on your performance whilst undertaking tutorial exercises, during which you will also receive instruction on the correct solution to tutorial problems.

Further individual feedback will be available to you on request via this module’s online feedback forum, through staff office hours and discussions with tutors. 

Module leaders

Professor Joaquim Peiro