NERC PhD Studentship Hazard and Risk – Flooding Evaluating the use of micro unmanned aircraft systems for flood modelling research

An excellent and highly-numerate student is sought for a fully-funded NERC PhD studentship in the area of hazard and risk. This is central to Loughborough’s strategic interest in further understanding how the natural environment impacts the built one, and using this to inform policy makers in the government and industry running the UK’s infrastructure (e.g., Environment Agency, Highways Agency).

A studentship is available in the Department of Geography, and will benefit from co-supervision with world leading experts in Civil Engineering and from direct interaction with the British Geological survey (BGS). Training in each will include fieldwork and GIS modelling techniques giving the student strength in skills identified by NERC as ‘most wanted’ for jobs in the environment sector; ‘modelling’, ‘multi-disciplinarity’, ‘numeracy’, ‘risk and uncertainty’.

Two-dimensional flood inundation modelling has been used extensively in the last few decades to derive maps of inundation. However, a number of challenges remain in the process of model calibration & validation. The emergence of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) provides the opportunities for collecting temporal data that can be used to support flood modelling research, in particular model calibration & validation.

The aim of this PhD project is to evaluate the capacity of micro UAS for collecting real-time flow data that can be used to evaluate the dynamic performance of flood inundation models. A good amount of field work is anticipated along with image processing and numerical modelling. The candidate will be trained in a number of areas, including (i) use of UAS in flood conditions; (ii) image processing using industry standard software; and (iii) flood inundation modelling using a well-established research code and a commercial code, both available at Loughborough. This project will be jointly supervised by an interdisciplinary team of researchers in Geography and Engineering, with expertise in: (i) flood modelling and flood risks assessment (Dr. Yu); and (ii) practical application of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) and image processing (Dr. Graham and Dr Wackrow). This project will be closely linked to: (i) the UAS group in the Department of Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering at Loughborough University, where purpose-built UAS are designed and developed; and (ii) five other projects on UAS in Loughborough. There will also be opportunity to use the state-of-art visualisation facility in British Geological Society (BGS).

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Funding and eligibility

Due to funding restrictions the studentship is open to UK/EU graduates with background in relevant engineering and science degrees provided that they are articulate, well qualified and highly motivated. The minimum entry qualification is a 2.1 Honours degree or equivalent. Due to funding restrictions applicants must be classed as home students for fee purposes. It is for 3 years and covers fees at a UK/EU rate of £13,726 for the 2013/2014 academic year with cost of living adjustments in years 2 and 3. The candidate will be expected to register for 1st January 2014.

Additional Information

Applications can be made on-line by clicking the Apply link below.

For further details and enquiries about the application process, please contact Ms Sue Clarke (

Applications will be accepted until 8th November 2013.

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