Thursday, 12 April 2012

Two fully funded PhD opportunities

UPDATE: these posts have now been filled.

Two fully-funded PhD studentship opportunities are available for EU nationals starting between now and October 2012.  Updated with links - see below.

Routing and Tasking Optimization for UAVs
This project will develop novel optimization techniques for the joint task allocation and routing of a small team of Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs).  Given a number of surveillance tasks, times to travel between task locations, available UAVs and remaining fuel levels, we have an initial method of finding the best routes and allocations.  This project will look for ways of making this faster and more robust, by combining different types of optimization (e.g. branch-and-bound, genetic algorithms, simulated annealing).  The project will also look at applying machine learning techniques to try and predict the user's requests before they're even made: make the answer available before the question's even asked.  Applicants should have a good first degree (2:1 or higher) in engineering, mathematics, computer science or a related subject.  Experience of optimization, operations research, machine learning or other relevant techniques would be beneficial. More information can be found at:

Multifunctional Air Deployed Exploration Nodes (MAiDENs)
(Applicants are free to suggest a better acronym!)  Imagine a micro UAV exploring a building.  Its battery is made up of many small cells, and whenever one is getting low on charge, it is dropped.  The UAV now has less weight so its flight time is extended.  Meanwhile, some extra electronics on each dropped cell makes use of the remaining charge: (a) it relays communications back to the outside world (b) it uses a small acoustic sensor to alert the UAV to changes in the world (c) when the UAV is ready to leave, it turns on a small beacon to act as a breadcrumb for the trail back out.  Now, all we have to do is see how well this can be achieved in, say, a gram, and figure out how best to deploy the idea.  For this project, applicants should have a good degree in electronics, robotics, engineering or similar, and experience of low power electronics will be a great help.  THis project will be jointly supervised by myself and colleague Steve Burrow.  More information can be found at:

Both studentships will be held in the Department of Aerospace Engineering, part of Bristol’s Faculty of Engineering. The projects will be affiliated with the Bristol Robotics Lab, utilizing the large indoor flying arena for experiments. Stipends will be at the standard level of £13,590 p.a. plus a top-up of £3,000 p.a. 

To apply, visit . On your application form, identify “PhD in Aerospace Engineering” as your chosen degree programme, Dr Arthur Richards as your proposed supervisor, and either (or both) of the two projects above as your proposed topic. Please use the “Proposed Research” section of the application to discuss your interest in the particular project(s). 

New UAV Exploration Project

We are beginning a new project on indoor exploration using small Unmanned Air Systems (UAS).  Colin Greatwood (shown right) is staying on after his PhD to develop new algorithms for exploring unknown environments without the use of GPS.  These techniques will allow UAS to investigate hazardous environments such as collapsed buildings or damaged nuclear or chemical plants.  This is a missing piece in a very big puzzle: we have worked on getting from A to B in cluttered environments and figuring out where the vehicle is without GPS: this project will help when we don't even know where B is and we need to explore.

A significant part of this project, funded by DSTL via the Centre for Defence Enterprise, is the equipment and commissioning of our large flying area at the Bristol Robotics Lab (BRL).  Colin is shown in the arena flying a AR Drone Parrot quadrotor in the photo.  With support from Vicon and dSpace, we will be equipping the arena with video tracking cameras and real-time control computing hardware.  The result should be one of the largest instrumented flying arenas in Europe.