This fully-funded PhD studentship is sponsored by Boeing Research and Technology Europe under the EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP). The studentship will provide an annual bursary of up to £18,000 (tax-free) plus tuition fees for 3 years. The project will investigate the contingency management of future advanced air mobility system, including UAS/UAM, integrated ATM/UTM and infrastructures. Read more Read less

The seamless integration of Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) and Air Traffic Management (ATM) is critical to fully unlock the potential benefits of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) applications. Alongside the integration of UTM with the ATM system, and emerging Urban Air Mobility (UAM) focusing on urban environment aims to further expand such integration towards the concept of Advanced Air Mobility (AAM). The envisioned AAM system will be capable of managing aircraft operations of all types, using most efficiently the information exchange and the supporting infrastructures. There are many challenges that will have to be overcome to achieve the full potential that the AAM system offers. Today, one of the most urgent tasks will be to enhance the UAS/UAM safety levels to match traditional manned aircraft with ATM, especially during a contingency or emergency state. Contingency management, the ability to manage the expected situations and the capability to recover from the unexpected, will be a key to success.
This PhD project will focus on the contingency management of the envisioned AAM system. To date, most relevant activities aim at automated on-board solutions for the vehicles (especially UAS) that address specific failure modes (e.g., technical failures) via certain procedures. These solutions work fine when the traffic density is low. When scaling up for future high-density traffic scenarios, however, it must be noted that the vehicle contingency handling is only a part of contingency management measures of the whole AAM system of systems that are composed of not only the UAS/UAM but also integrated ATM/UTM systems and supporting infrastructures.
Cranfield University is an exclusively postgraduate university specialising in technology and management research, with world-class, large-scale facilities and a staff-to-student ratio that is one of the best for any university in the UK. Cranfield is the only University in Europe that has its own commercial airport, controllers, pilots, and aircraft. This PhD will be hosted by the Centre for Autonomous and Cyber-Physical Systems and will be based at DARTeC (Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre) which is a new research centre with £65 million investment supported through a consortium of leading aerospace and aviation companies. Cranfield also hosts a number of unique facilities, including a digital tower, ATM/UTM simulator, flight simulators, the national flying laboratory centre, MUEAVI (Multi-User Environment for Autonomous Vehicle Innovation) infrastructure and National Beyond visual line of sight Experimentation Corridor (NBEC) which allows testing of UAS in a designated 16km experiment corridor.
Boeing Research & Technology Europe (BR&T-E) is an active member of the European industry in the fields of Air Traffic Management, Safety and Environment, contributing to establish a permanent technical footprint of Boeing in Europe as a key player in the R&TD community. BR&T-E collaborates actively with a variety of European stakeholders through agreements and partnerships with leading European Stakeholders, including European Institutions, Universities, Research Centres, and Air Navigation Service Providers. As a result of this collaborative strategy, BR&T-E develops advanced systems solutions and breakthrough technologies that help improve the quality, performance, environmental sustainability and safety of aerospace products and services.
This PhD project is expected to leverage the extensive knowledge and expertise provided by a joined group of experts from Cranfield and BR&T-E. It is envisaged to reveal how the contingency management measures, in response to a variety of off-nominal situations, taken at different operational stages and by different responsible stakeholders, can be conducted from a holistic perspective, through for instance strategic planning, coordinated procedures and response protocols, technological and operational advances, as well as pre-programmed systems or vehicle responses to anomalies.
The successful applicant will be encouraged to publish and/or present his/her work in high-quality peer-reviewed journals and/or conference proceedings. Career-progression will be supported by encouraging placement and development opportunities, including funded visits to relevant national and/or international research institutions. The successful applicant will also have opportunities to spend short-term funded visits to BR&T-E to work with the experts there towards the PhD project.
This is a very exciting project focusing on the cutting-edge AAM research area within the aviation sector. The successful applicant will be exposed to a wide variety of new concepts, technologies, practices, and therefore challenges, through the whole duration of the project. Upon the end of the project, the successful applicant will be very well positioned to have a highly successful career in the emerging and fast-growing AAM field in academia or industry.

At a glance

  • Application deadline05 Jul 2021
  • Award type(s)PhD
  • Start date01 Oct 2021
  • Duration of award3 years
  • EligibilityUK, EU, Rest of World
  • Reference numberSATM216


1st Supervisor: Dr Yan Xu
2nd Supervisor: Dr Dimitrios Panagiotakopoulos
3rd  Supervisor: Prof Gokhan Inalhan

Entry requirements

Applicants should have a first or second class UK honours degree or equivalent in System Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, Transport Engineering or Computer Engineering. The ideal candidate should have strong skills in modelling, simulation and analysis, and the associated programming skills. Prior knowledge in aviation, air/unmanned traffic management and unmanned aerial systems would be a distinct advantage. The candidate should be self-motivated, have excellent oral and written communication skills for regular interaction with group members and other stakeholders.


To be eligible for this funding, applicants must have no restrictions on how long they can stay in the UK and have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the studentship (with some further constraint regarding residence for education).

From the 2021/22 academic year UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding is open to both UK and International research students. Awards for both Home students and International students covers the UKRI home level tuition fee and provides a stipend at the standard UKRI rate. However, a cap of up to 30% international students will be applied to each training grant where appropriate and in line with UKRI’s policy. All UKRI funded students will be charged the same fee structure.

An Additional Fee Element may be chargeable to international students funded through UKRI at the home free rate. This will be advised by the supervisor on application. To find out more about the eligibility, please refer to Eligibility.

About the sponsor

Sponsored by EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership and Boeing Research and Technology Europe, this studentship will provide a bursary of up to £18,000 (tax-free) plus fees* for three years.

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:

Name: Dr Yan Xu
T: (0)1234 750111 Ext:4861
Name: Dr Dimitrios Panagiotakopoulos
T: (0)1234 750111 Ext: 8072
Name: Prof Gokhan Inalhan
T: (0)1234 750111 Ext:8274

If you are eligible to apply for this studentship, please complete the online application form.