Drone Navigation in GPS Denied Environments

   Defence Trailblazer

   Sunday, March 31, 2024  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Who can apply? • Australian Citizens & Permanent Residents • New Zealand Citizens • Onshore international students from Five Eyes Alliance Nations (United States, the United Kingdom, Canada)

Program of study available • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Industry partner and funding bodyGeodrones Pty LtdDefence Trailblazer

Total annual stipend amount • A base scholarship of $40,000pa plus $10,000pa top-up scholarship

Start date • No later than 31 March 2024

Geodrones is developing an obstacle avoidance system that can avoid obstacles in 360 degrees for a small form factor drone. Various field of view cameras have been tested including stereo and fish-eye lens cameras. Geodrones is investing to implement Artificial Intelligence (AI) based approaches for path planning and obstacle avoidance capability to improve the performance of existing off-the-shelf solutions. Another line of investment includes development of GPS-free navigation solutions using Self Localisation and Mapping technologies (SLAM) and vision system. Several experiments have been conducted so far demonstrating promising results.

This project aims to improve on existing algorithms for SLAM with a view to implementation on Edge AI enabled devices installed on real drones. The desired outcome is a method to intelligently fuse sensors like LiDAR, cameras and inertial systems to provide robust obstacle avoidance capability in cluttered environments without reliable GPS data.

The project will be conducted in both simulation and on real UAV platforms with hardware-in-the loop experiments. Algorithms will be developed for Edge AI enabled devices to achieve UAV payloads that are lightweight, use minimal power whilst meeting flight safety requirements

Eligibility criteria

  • Australian citizens and defence industry professionals are encouraged to apply.
  • Applicants with strong experimental and numerical skills in robotics, computer vision or control systems will be considered favourably.
  • Be willing to share Intellectual Property with the industry partner and University by way of a Student Deed Poll.


  • Work closely with skilled experts on defence industry led projects
  • Translate research into a tangible solution for Defence
  • $50,000pa tax-free* stipend (pro-rated for eligible part-time students)
  • No tuition fees apply
  • Acquire a unique set of skills and expertise
  • Enhance your employability skills sought after by industry; graduates are highly regarded by employers
  • Opportunities for local and international travel
  • Work alongside world-leading researchers
  • Gain industry experience and grow your networks
  • Solve real life problems through industry engaged projects
  • Publish your contributions
  • Become an expert and make a real impact
  • Access paid annual, parental and personal leave.

More about Defence Trailblazer

The Defence Trailblazer for Concept to Sovereign Capability is a once in a generation opportunity to strengthen the collaboration between defence, academia and industry whilst accelerating research and commercialisation. In partnership with the University of Adelaide (UoA), the University of New South Wales (UNSW), industry partners and supported by the Australian Government, the initiative will skill the workforce of the future, support defence-focussed innovation, and play a leading role in accelerating the delivery of sovereign capabilities for the nation’s security and prosperity...at-speed and at-scale. Learn more.

Industry Research Program

All students supported under the Defence Trailblazer initiative will participate in the Defence Trailblazer Industry Research Program (IRP).

Candidates will be located on-site at both university and industry offices for at least 60 FTE days (prorated for eligible Masters candidates), to enable professional development opportunities in an industry setting.

Defence Research Capability

Academics participating in the Defence Trailblazer IRP are leaders in their fields.

UNSW adds a critical dimension to preparing defence forces across areas as diverse as Autonomous Systems, Hypersonics, Sensors and Space. The UNSW Defence Capability Portfolio showcases UNSW’s excellence in defence research and technology and highlights work across academia, government and industry, as well as with global policy makers, to create a hub of defencerelated knowledge. The vision is to translate this knowledge into impact which can transform Australian and global societies.

There’s no greater reassurance for our community than knowing we’re well prepared to prevent or avert threats to our security. UoA researchers support this in very domain: on land and online; in space, the air and at sea, working extensively with the Department of Defence and defence-related organisations in a variety of ways—as an advisor, research partner and producer of high-quality, career-ready graduates equipped to make our world a better and more secure place.

Learn more about UNSW’s defence capability portfolios.

How to apply

  • Complete an expression of interest
  • The primary supervisor will assess your eligibility, and if successful, will prompt your application for admission via UNSW.

Further information

For a confidential discussion contact:

Professor Matt Garratt

School of Engineering & Technology

UNSW Canberra | Canberra ACT 2611


T: 02 5114 5150

Please note - due to security clearances required, this opportunity is ONLY available to Australian Citizens and Permanent Residents, New Zealand Citizens or international students currently studying in Australia, who are citizens of Five Eyes Alliance Nations.

Defence Industry professionals are encouraged to apply. Want to undertake this opportunity as a Masters instead? Contact Lisa Staines , Defence Trailblazer Workforce Portfolio Manager, to discuss further

Computer Science (8) Engineering (12)

Funding Notes

Scholarship of $50,000 p.a. & no tuition fees (conditions apply)

Register your interest for this project

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