Embedded Framework for Truly Autonomous Marine Sampling - Mathematics - EPSRC DTP funded PhD Studentship Ref: 2967

About the award

This project is one of a number funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Doctoral Training Partnership to commence in September 2018. This project is in direct competition with others for funding; the projects which receive the best applicants will be awarded the funding.

The studentships will provide funding for a stipend which is currently £14,553 per annum for 2017-2018. It will provide research costs and UK/EU tuition fees at Research Council UK rates for 42 months (3.5 years) for full-time students, pro rata for part-time students.

Please note that of the total number of projects within the competition, up to 15 studentships will be filled.

Dr Prathyush P Menon
Dr Christopher Edwards

Streatham Campus, Exeter

Project Description
The project aims to develop methods for truly autonomous marine sampling vehicles which can make decisions about where and what to sample on board without reference to a human pilot or model simulation. Such approaches are very promising given the potential for a single pilot to operate a fleet at sea, but are at a low level of technology readiness, given the associated risks. In this project, we will develop novel control methods suitable for embedded system environment and validate in in-water experiments at Ardmucknish Bay, UK.

Truly autonomous marine sampling vehicles are ones that make decisions about where and what to sample on board without reference to a human pilot or model simulation. Such approaches are very promising given the potential for a single pilot to operate a fleet at sea, but are at a low level of technology readiness, given the associated risks. Ongoing studies at University of Exeter demonstrated in sea trials a surface vehicle that could follow a set level contour without a priori knowledge of the phenomenon, which was commanded in a 2km radius WiFi networked environment from the shore.

The next phase in investigating true autonomy is to extend the algorithm as a fully on-board embedded unit, and further to use with an AUV working at depth, before the final extensions to a glider. The subtle theoretical issues associated with integrated guidance approach for boundary tracking in a 3 dimensional environment and other novel extensions of the control methodologies are aimed. The on-board implementation will be done in a Robotic Operating System environment. Scalable distributed parameter systems approach, considering the specific feature, as a spatially distributed process will also be developed and innovating partial differential equation based modelling may be evaluated.

Gliders present particular difficulties because their method of propulsion does not allow them the directional manoeuvrability to ‘follow’ a contour or level set as an AUV or surface vehicle could. We will demonstrate the viability and utility of such systems in a series of in silico experiments, which will be ported onto an additional systems control CPU fitted into the SAMS-owned Kongsberg/Hydroid Remus 600 AUV. This will allow proof-of-concept trials to be undertaken in large laboratory tank conditions; full demonstration at sea will be undertaken in a future or parallel project. These trials will inform a view of potential future observing system design.

Entry Requirements
You should have or expect to achieve at least a 2:1 Honours degree, or equivalent, in Mathematics/Engineering (General/Mechanical/Electronics Engineering/Computer Science/Software Engineering/Oceanography). Experience in Marine vehicles/Unmanned systems, Control, Robotics Operating System, C++, Python is desirable.

If English is not your first language you will need to meet the English language requirements and provide proof of proficiency. Click here for more information and a list of acceptable alternative tests.

The majority of the studentships are available for applicants who are ordinarily resident in the UK and are classed as UK/EU for tuition fee purposes.  If you have not resided in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the studentship, you are not eligible for a maintenance allowance so you would need an alternative source of funding for living costs. To be eligible for fees-only funding you must be ordinarily resident in a member state of the EU.  For information on EPSRC residency criteria click here.

Applicants who are classed as International for tuition fee purposes are NOT eligible for funding. International students interested in studying at the University of Exeter should search our funding database for alternative options.


Application deadline:10th January 2018
Value:3.5 year studentship: UK/EU tuition fees and an annual maintenance allowance at current Research Council rate. Current rate of £14,553 per year.
Duration of award:per year
Contact: Doctoral Collegepgrenquiries@exeter.ac.uk

How to apply

You will be required to upload the following documents:
•       CV
•       Letter of application outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to
        undertake the project.
•       Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained.  This should be an interim
        transcript if you are still studying.
•       If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your current
        proficiency in English.  For further details of the University’s English language requirements please see

The closing date for applications is midnight (GMT) on Wednesday 10 January 2018.  Interviews will be held at the University of Exeter in late February 2018.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email: pgrenquiries@exeter.ac.uk.
Project-specific queries should be directed to the supervisor.

During the application process, the University may need to make certain disclosures of your personal data to third parties to be able to administer your application, carry out interviews and select candidates.  These are not limited to, but may include disclosures to:

• the selection panel and/or management board or equivalent of the relevant programme, which is likely to include staff from one or more other HEIs;
• administrative staff at one or more other HEIs participating in the relevant programme.

Such disclosures will always be kept to the minimum amount of personal data required for the specific purpose. Your sensitive personal data (relating to disability and race/ethnicity) will not be disclosed without your explicit consent.