University of Exeter funding: Autonomous Systems for Offshore Win

Autonomous Systems for Offshore Wind O&M – Strategies, Guidelines, and Tools; Engineering – PhD (Funded) Ref: 3619

About the award


Dr. Ajit C Pillai, University of Exeter

Professor Lars Johanning, University of Exeter

About the Award

The Centre for Offshore Technology, part of the University of Exeter’s College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, is inviting applications for a PhD studentship to commence in September 2019 or as soon as possible thereafter. For eligible students the studentship will cover tuition fees at UK/EU rate plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £15,009 for 4 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study.  The student would be based in the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences on the Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

Location: Renewable Energy, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Cornwall.

Project Description:

This PhD at the University of Exeter is sponsored by EDF Energy which is at the forefront of the drive towards low carbon electricity generation. This PhD seeks to address the offshore wind industry’s need of greater levels of automation by applying novel methods of integrating multiple autonomous systems to the operation of existing wind farms and planning for the needs of future offshore wind farms A PhD candidate is sought to develop tools to use and coordinate autonomous surface vessels, unmanned subsea vessels, and unmanned aerial drones for offshore wind farms. Working closely with operational teams, the research will include field testing at active wind farms, including the Blyth Offshore Wind Demonstrator site. The tools, strategies, and proof of concept sea trials developed as part of this PhD will aid not only wind farm operators, such as the industrial sponsor, but will help guide the work of manufacturers of autonomous systems to ensure that their systems can address the challenges faced in this industry as well as standard and certification bodies.

The aim is to identify, develop and validate innovative solutions to reduce costs and risks to existing and future offshore wind assets. The project would suit someone who is highly motivated to be involved in the application and development of autonomous and remote systems backed up by sound engineering knowledge and a strong background in computing and mathematics. A degree in one or more of the following engineering disciplines would be advantageous: mechanical, aeronautical, electrical, civil, computer or navel/offshore. However, candidates across the marine sciences, maths, computing or physical sciences will also be considered.

The project will take advantage of facilities within the Centre for Offshore Technology, including high-performance computing, offshore test facilities, offshore measurement technology, and research vessel. Furthermore, field trials at Blyth offshore wind farm are anticipated in partnership with the industrial sponsor EDF Energy. As such, the project will include fieldwork including testing of remote/autonomous systems.

The studentship will be awarded on the basis of merit for 4 years of full-time study to commence in January 2020 with up to a six month secondment to EDF Energy’s offices supplemented by training to support personal development. The collaboration with the industrial sponsor is subject to contract.  Please note full details of the project partner’s contribution and involvement with the project is still to be confirmed and may change during the course of contract negotiations. Full details will be confirmed at offer stage.

The studentship will cover a stipend at the minimum Research Council rate, currently £15,009 per annum, research costs and tuition fees at the UK/EU rate for students who meet the residency requirements outlined by the EPSRC. Students from EU countries who do not meet the residency requirements may still be eligible for a fees-only award but no stipend. Applicants who are classed as International for tuition fee purposes are not eligible for funding. Further information about eligibility can be found here.

Entry requirements

Applicants for this studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science or technology.

If English is not your first language you will need to have achieved at least 6.0 in IELTS and no less than 6.0 in any section by the start of the project.  Alternative tests may be acceptable (see

How to apply

In the application process you will be asked to upload several 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)
  • Names of two referees familiar with your academic work. You are not required to obtain references yourself. We will request references directly from your referees if you are shortlisted.
  • If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your proficiency in English

The closing date for applications is midnight on 22/11/2019. Interviews will be held on the University of Exeter Penryn campus the week commencing 01 December 2019.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email or phone +44 (0)1392 722730 or +44 (0)1392 725150.  Project-specific queries should be directed to the main supervisor.


Application deadline:22nd November 2019
Duration of award:per year
Contact: STEMM PGR Admissions