PhD Position – Training on Remote Sensing for Ecosystem Modelling

PhD Opportunity – Remote Sensing for Ecosystem Modelling – Non UK Citizens Only

Organisation/Company QuestUAVQuest Logo Full

Research Field Engineering, Geosciences

Researcher Profile First Stage Researcher 

Application Deadline 30/04/2017 17:00 UK time


Location Northumberland/ Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK

Type of Contract Temporary 36 months

Offer Starting Date 01/06/2017

EU Research Framework Programme H2020/ Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions

Job Description 

One PhD position is offered in the frame of TRuStEE – Training on Remote Sensing for Ecosystem modelling, a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network Action.

TRuStEE is an EU funded project which includes 8 academic and 2 industrial partners representing 6 European countries. This project aims to capacitate the next generation of scientists to understand and deal with the increasing pressure of environmental change on ecosystem functioning and land-atmosphere interactions. Specifically, TRuStEE will train a new generation of scientists with complementary and interdisciplinary skills in ecosystem modelling, plant physiology, remote sensing technologies and big data analysis. The early stage researchers (ESRs) involved will strongly benefit from the network of internationally recognized scientists and private companies with relevant expertise in these topics through training courses, summer schools and secondments.

Network Partners: University of Milano-Bicocca (Coordinator), Italy; University of Exeter, UK; Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Spain; University of Twente, Netherlands; Fondazione Edmund Mach, Italy; AeroVision BV, Netherlands; Max Planck Institut fur Biogeochemie, Jena, Germany; Vlaamse Instelling voor Technologisch Onderzoek (VITO), Belgium; Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, Germany; QuestUAV Ltd, UK.

The candidate will be employed at QuestUAV under the supervision of Mr Nigel King and enrolled as a PhD student in the School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Newcastle University, supervised by Dr Rachel Gaulton and Dr Nigel Penna.

The candidate will be employed at QuestUAV under the supervision by Mr. Nigel King. The candidate will be enrolled as PhD student at the Newcastle University under the supervision of Dr. Rachel Gaulton.

Project Description 

The ESR project will focus on developing and taking to market a new research-grade Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), based on the QuestUAV system, but housing state-of-the-art hyperspectral or narrowband imaging equipment, targeted at precision agriculture applications. The successful candidate will work with a multidisciplinary team, and as part of an integrated international Innovative Training Network (TRuStEE), to develop a highly automated hyperspectral UAV data collection and processing system to facilitate precision agriculture, through spatial and temporal monitoring and modelling of crop development and plant traits, including early stage detection of crop stress. The project will examine both image data calibration and processing workflows and the use of improved positioning technologies to provide more accurate geometric data.  A particular focus will be on the ability to utilise the system to characterise the spatio-temporal variability of plant functional traits in agricultural systems and on developing the utility of this data for supporting precision farming. Project objectives will include:

  • Integration of the hyperspectral sensor system into a fixed-wing UAV,
  • Calibration and validation of hyperspectral reflectance measurements from the UAV sensor in laboratory and field environments,
  • Refinement of GNSS Precise Point Positioning methods to provide high accuracy positioning information and improved accuracy trajectories, and integration with IMU and image data to provide accurate, georeferenced data sets with minimal requirements for ground control,
  • Development of robust, near-real-time processing workflows to automate extraction of soil and plant trait information from hyperspectral imagery, with validation in agricultural systems.

The developed system will be extensively field tested and validated at well characterised test sites, including at Newcastle University’s Cockle Park Farm, Northumberland, UK, at brassica farms in South West England and in dehesa pastoral systems in Spain, facilitated by secondments to ITN partners. Close collaboration with ITN ESRs at the University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy and the University of Exeter, as well as secondments, extensive training and networking opportunities available through the wider ITN, will enhance skills development and knowledge transfer. The candidate will also have an option to be trained as a RPAS/UAV fixed wing pilot.

The project will run for 36 months.

Institute Description

QuestUAV Ltd is a UK-based manufacturer of small, fixed wing unmanned aircraft (sUAV) that are designed to carry sensors such as high resolution cameras, multispectral cameras, thermal sensors and video surveillance systems. QuestUAV sells its products and services around the world and in all climates from desert and tropical to glacial and Arctic/Antarctic. Currently, we have sold to or operated in 56 countries around the globe. QuestUAV has the knowledge, IP and equipment to design, manufacture and redesign fixed wing drones from raw materials right through to the finished article. This provides a rapid design cycle, with an ability to customize to client specification. QuestUAV is an SME operating from premises in Amble, Northumberland, UK.

Whilst primarily based at QuestUAV, the ESR will be registered within the Geomatics research group in the School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Newcastle University, a member of the Russell Group of leading research-intensive universities. The ESR will spend time working within the research group, which currently includes around 20 PhD students, including active involvement in regular research group meetings and seminars and participation in a wide range of available generic skills training within the University. The ESR will have access to University resources and to extensive geomatics expertise and equipment, including high-end UAV, field spectroscopy and positioning equipment and software.

Skills and Requirements

The successful candidate will have an undergraduate degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in geomatics, remote sensing, environmental sciences, applied physics or other quantitative science, ideally with expertise in optical sensors, remote sensing or photogrammetry or surveying / geodesy. A Masters degree in a related field is highly desirable. Familiarity with at least one programming language (e.g. IDL, Python, Matlab, R, Fortran, C) and spatial data processing and modelling will be beneficial. Experience in operating UAVs and working with hyperspectral data is useful. Candidates with experience directly related to the research topic outlined above will be given preference.

Candidates whose first language is not English will need to provide a recognised English language test or qualification and must obtain an overall minimum IELTS score of 6.5 or equivalent, with at least 5.5 in each sub-skill, before a formal offer can be made.

Require Language: English

Eligible Criteria

Applicants should meet the following eligibility criteria:

– have the background and expertise required for the position;

– be at the time of recruitment in the first four years of research career (full-time equivalent research experience*) calculated from the date on which the Master degree was obtained;

– not have been awarded a Doctoral Degree;

– not have resided or carried out his/her main activity in the country of the host institute for more than 12 months in the last three years immediately prior to the reference recruitment date;

* ‘Full-time equivalent research experience’ is measured from the date when the researcher obtained the degree entitling him/her to embark on a doctorate (either in the country in which the degree was obtained or in the country in which the researcher is recruited or seconded) – even if a doctorate was never started or envisaged.

Benefits and Salary

Salaries are paid under the Marie Curie system. Salaries are not published but are considered to be exceptionally generous in order that selected researchers have no financial burdens during their period of study. As a guideline expect circa 35k to 40k euro.

How to Apply:

To apply for the position, please email the following documents to Nigel King (Director of QuestUAV) by the deadline: 30 April 2017.

-Curriculum Vitae, including contact details, education (University level and other), work experience, prizes/awards, language skills etc. (max 2 pages). The CV should reflect a representative array of achievements and qualifications appropriate to the post for which applications is being made.

-Official academic record of undertaken courses & grades for Bachelor and Master degree.

-Motivation letter, describing his or her motivation to postgraduate studies and to conduct the research project applied for.

-Contact details of three referees willing to write confidential letters of recommendation.

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