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A low-cost single frequency GNSS network for next generation space weather modelling

Project Description

Comprehensive and timely specifications of the Earth’s upper atmosphere are required to ensure the effective operation, planning and management of a range of systems impacted by space weather. The threat posed by space weather has recently been added to the UK National Risk Register. Whilst the needed for sovereign space weather services to support government, industry and the military has been highlighted by the Australian Government in a 2014 report. One approach for mitigating such risks is to develop mathematical models flexible enough to accommodate the integration of new sensory data such as those provided by next-generation Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS).

The University of Birmingham (UoB) is developing the Advanced Ensemble electron density (Ne) Assimilation System (AENeAS), a physics-based DA model of the atmosphere. However one of the difficulties with such models is that measurements of the upper atmosphere are sparse. Some dedicated systems have been developed, yet the most prevalent data source is from GNSS measurements (e.g. the USA’s GPS or the EU’s Galileo).

Traditionally “dual-frequency” receivers have been used for these measurements, but these are still relatively rare and expensive (~£10,000).To make a step change in our understanding of the upper atmosphere an extremely low cost (<£100) receiver has been prototyped at UoB. Allowing the capture of information from regions around the Earth that until this time have not been monitored. The proposed project will statistically and systematically quantify each component of the instrument to understand how the its performance can be improved and develop methods for combining several devices to improve performance and investigating how the data can be assimilated into AENeAS to improve its forecast capability.

In particular, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s Space Weather Services has a Research Priority for better forecasting irregularities in the upper atmosphere which cause disruptive scintillation of signals to critical GNSS services. Northern Australia sits in the heart of the “Equatorial Anomaly” where such events are frequent and this collaboration between UoB and University of Melbourne (UoM) provides a unique opportunity to tackle this problem. It harnesses the capabilities of both institutions by combing the latest advances in upper atmospheric modelling (UoB) with expertise in GNSS processing and exposure to the complex environment where these impacts are most common (UoM).Moreover, UoM own several mass-market GNSS receivers whose sensory data will serve for cross-validation purposes.

Funding Notes

A fully-funded studentship, which includes tax-free Doctoral Stipend of £15,009* per annum, is available for Home/EU and Overseas students on this Joint PhD programme between the University of Birmingham and the University of Melbourne for October 2019 start. For students who are to be hosted by the University of Melbourne, the scholarship rate will be $AUD30,000 p.a. and will include provision for a return trip to Birmingham.
*subject to inflationary variation

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