University of Exeter funding: Emergency Flood Planning Using Unma

Emergency Flood Planning Using Unmanned Aerial Systems, Mathematics/Engineering – PhD (Funded) Ref: 3847

About the award


Academic Supervisors:

Professor Prathyush P Menon,  College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, University of Exeter.

Professor David Butler, College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, University of Exeter.


The University of Exeter’s College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, is inviting applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship to commence in April 2020 or as soon as possible thereafter.  For eligible students the studentship will cover International tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £15,009 for 3.5 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study.  The student would be based in the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences at the Streatham Campus in Exeter.

Location: College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, Stratham Campus, University of Exeter, Devon, UK.

Project Description

Natural disaster such as flooding has significant adverse economic, social and cultural impact on the affected communities. As the number of such emergencies is on hike, and the resources available to manage during post-disaster are limited, it is important first of all to enhance the planning/preparedness level, and thereby to provide efficient means to speed up the recovery operations. The project focuses on using instrumented unmanned aerial systems (UASs) to collect and collate pertinent information about an unfolding flooding disaster. The relative ease with which UASs can be deployed (often hand launched) to assess damage across large areas provides emergency responders with the opportunity to assess the situation quickly, allowing the prioritisation of resources and their effective deployment where they are required.

One aspect of the research will focus on addressing the challenges associated with planning mission of UASs in such (non-ideal) situations allowing to efficiently gather useful information (for example based on LiDAR and Camera sensors) for aiding the decision making during emergency. The research project will also consider how the data collected using the UAS can be combined with accelerated flood inundation models to generate detailed evacuation plans, and to predict the nature and progress of the flooding to improve allocation of emergency resources, build community flood resilience, save lives and reduce economic damage. The forecast/evacuation plans from the flood inundation models further aid the planning the operations of single/multiple UAS more efficiently over a region. Some of the many challenges the research project poses to the researcher are associated with near real time decision making under uncertainty based on the dynamic data received from multiple sensors from UASs, the integration of a flood inundation mathematical model with the mission planner of UASs, optimisation of the operations of the possible multiple resources, etc.

An ideal candidate should have ample background knowledge on numerical methods, basics of optimisation, and basics of programming. A good understanding on autopilot basics of unmanned aerial systems (for e.g. Quadrotors) and LiDAR/Camera sensors and exposure to 3D simulation environment will be an advantage. Exposure to principles of dynamic programming and Bayesian methods will be an added benefit. The potential candidate should be passionate to work with mission planners (for e.g. QGroundcontrol) and UoE proprietary flood inundation mathematical models (for e.g. CADDIS-2D, for which additional external support will be available) and interact with other researchers in the consortia, in UK and India. The potential candidate needs to be passionate to implement different techniques which will be developed during the research in MATLAB/C++/Python environment.

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 Aerospace/Electrical/Mechanical or relevant other engineering or applied mathematics. A master level qualification is desirable.

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)
• Two references from referees familiar with your academic work. If your referees prefer, they can email the reference direct to quoting the studentship reference number.
• 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 31st January 2020.  Interviews will be held on the University of Exeter Streatham Campus the week commencing 10th February 2020.

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:31st January 2020
Duration of award:per year
Contact: STEMM PGR Admissions