Applications are invited for a PhD in the area of Reasoning and Digital Twins. The reasoning is very intuitive (human), used in a number of fields, but not often explored in academia. Linking this to a Digital Twin, the virtual equivalent of a physical asset, is an exciting endeavour. Read more Read less

The research will leverage an already completed PhD, which provides the framework for a number of different research activities. Although applied to aircraft in this previous instance, applications targeting other platforms/sectors will be considered.

Maintenance of high-value assets is a costly and time-consuming business, with MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) costing £14B a year in civil aerospace alone. Historically, maintenance has been carried out on a scheduled basis, irrespective of a component’s wear or degradation. Condition Based Maintenance (CBM), only repairing/replacing a component based on its condition, is seen as a paradigm shift, and IVHM (Integrated Vehicle Health Management) as the capability that will enable it. As such IVHM covers a wide spectrum of technologies, from building business cases and examining standards and legislation to sensor technology and algorithm development. IVHM Centre physical applications range from benchtop experiments to Cranfield’s B737 aircraft.

The approach of using reasoning, coupled with a Digital Twin of the target system, to explore fault propagation and maintenance is viable in a recently completed PhD thesis. The work was entitled FAVER (Framework for Aerospace Vehicle Reasoning) and, as its name suggests, provides a framework in which to explore fault detection and propagation between aircraft systems. In this work Digital Twins of the engine, environmental control system, electrical power system and fuel system were constructed, along with their diagnostic algorithms (to detect faults) and interaction with other systems. The aim of the project is to extend this work in a number of different and exciting areas. Examples of these, but not limited by them, are i) Making the Digital Twin (DT) simulations unsteady (currently only steady state is considered) and marrying these, in real-time, to laboratory hardware. ii) Expanding the DTs to other systems, with calibration, test and validation. iii) Developing reasoning for each system such that the overall integration at a vehicle level is simplified and more powerful. iv) Formalising the minimum number of sensors needed to support the vehicle reasoning. The exact projects taken forward will very much depend on the candidate.

Cranfield is a unique learning environment with world-class programmes, unrivalled facilities and close links with business, industry and governments, all combining to attract the best students and teaching staff from around the world. In 2014, 81% of research at Cranfield was rated as world-leading or internationally excellent in the Research Excellence Framework (REF).

The Integrated Vehicle Health Management (IVHM) Centre was founded by Boeing, and a number of aerospace partners (BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, Meggitt and Thales), in 2008. It has grown to perform work in sectors such as transport, aerospace, rail, agriculture, pharmaceuticals and manufacturing. The Centre integrates a multidisciplinary research effort to develop cost-effective component and system health management solutions, capable of supporting high-value, high-complexity applications. 

The IVHM Centre is a member of the Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre (DARTeC), which focuses its research on aircraft electrification, connected systems, unmanned traffic management, seamless journey, distributed airport/airspace management, and a conscious aircraft project. Research England, Thales, Saab, Aveillant, Inmarsat, the IVHM Centre and Boxarr are some of the prominent members of DARTec. The potential PhD candidate will have access to DARTeC facilities as well as those of the IVHM Centre.

FAVER, the framework for reasoning, is a major step forward and an achievement not usually associated with Universities. It is expected that the proposed project areas will have an impact inside the aerospace industry, including the IVHM Centre and DARTeC partners. High-quality papers will be published on the results and the candidate will submit for a PhD.

Canfield, the IVHM Centre and DARTeC are uniquely positioned in their access to the forefront of industrial thinking and research. Coupled with world-class facilities this makes it a very attractive place for anyone considering a career at the leading edge of engineering. It is expected that conference papers, and attendance to disseminate the results of the research, will follow. Training will be given in subject areas as required.

Upon successful completion of the project, the candidate will be able to carry out research activities independently, using analytic and logistic skills learnt during the PhD. Coupled with an understanding of the future landscape for aerospace, in MRO and commercial aircraft production, and contacts made with industrial partners, the candidate will broaden their employability scope appreciably.

At a glance

  • Application deadline17 Dec 2021
  • Award type(s)PhD
  • Start dateAs soon as possible
  • Duration of award3 years
  • EligibilityUK, EU, Rest of World
  • Reference numberSATM228


1st supervisor: Professor Ian Jennions

2nd supervisor: Dr Cordelia Ezhilarasu

Entry requirements

Applicants should have a first or second class UK honours degree or equivalent in a related discipline. This project would suit . (a) graduate and postgraduate students with a degree in engineering (preferably in mechanical or aerospace), computer/data science, or any other related physical sciences subject, and (b) Researchers and Engineers with a background/interest in maintenance and health management systems. PhD candidates should have software programming skills and familiarity with the aerospace (or target) sector. Above all, candidates with highly innovative approaches, good ideas, high motivation and willingness to learn are welcome. 


This is a self-funded opportunity.

About the sponsor

This is a self-funded opportunity. 

Cranfield Doctoral Network

Research students at Cranfield benefit from being part of a dynamic, focused and professional study environment and all become valued members of the Cranfield Doctoral Network. This network brings together both research students and staff, providing a platform for our researchers to share ideas and collaborate in a multi-disciplinary environment. It aims to encourage an effective and vibrant research culture, founded upon the diversity of activities and knowledge. A tailored programme of seminars and events, alongside our Doctoral Researchers Core Development programme (transferable skills training), provide those studying a research degree with a wealth of social and networking opportunities.

How to apply

For further information please contact:
T: (0) 1234 750111 Ext: 4087
If you are eligible to apply for this studentship, please complete the online application form.