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Explainable AI for radar in an Air Traffic Management system PhD

School of Aerospace, Transport and Manufacturing (SATM)

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Dr DP Panagiotakopoulos No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project


This is an exciting opportunity for a fully-funded PhD studentship in the Centre for Autonomous and Cyber-Physical Systems at Cranfield University, in the field of the explainable Artificial Intelligence (XAI) in radar systems for Air Traffic Management. This PhD investigates and develops Deep Learning classification and explainability methods that can be applied to a safety-critical radar system. This research is sponsored by EPSRC and SAAB UK under the Doctoral Training Partnership Funding 2020/21. The studentship will provide a bursary of up to £18,000 (tax-free) plus fees* for three years.


Artificial Intelligence (AI) in civilian Air Traffic Management (ATM) is still in its infancy. The increased number of Unmanned Autonomous Vehicles (UAV) threatens the safety of both low-flying passenger jets and airports. Currently, most airport Primary Surveillance Radars (PSR) used for Air Traffic Control (ATC), do not typically perform real-time classification of aircraft radar signatures.

This PhD proposes the incorporation of the deep learning (DL) architectures in the classification of air vehicles radar signatures as an automated way of mapping these signatures to discrete aircraft classes. Here, the research will create real-time explainable AI (XAI) solutions ranging from data feature-based to symbolic based to explain the DL actions.

Cranfield is an exclusively postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management. It is the only University that has its own commercial Airport, controllers, commercial pilots, and aircraft. Cranfield Airport was the first to install and operate a Digital Tower in the UK, supplied by SAAB the PhD industrial sponsor.

This PhD will be hosted by the Centre for Autonomous and Cyber-Physical Systems and will be based at DARTeC which is a £67 million new research centre that will enable “Aviation of the Future”. Cranfield is also setting up 16 km long national facility for drone flights (referred to as drone corridor) which will be extensively used for experimentation in this project. The Centre for Autonomous and Cyber-Physical Systems is one of the world’s largest centres of postgraduate education and research, with over 200 MSc and PhD students. In terms of facility, Cranfield University has a range of specialist research facilities available for different research activities (e.g. MUEAVI-multi-user environment for autonomous vehicle innovation facility). The facility operates as a collaborative and flexible space with specialist equipment available for indoor/outdoor flight tests for UAS systems. Also, the Centre for Autonomous and Cyber-Physical Systems offers the environment for algorithm development and simulation. Also, the centre can offer support, assistance with analysis, and method development for research.

About the sponsor

Sponsored by EPSRC, Cranfield University, and SAAB UK, this studentship will provide a bursary of up to £18,000 (tax-free) plus fees* for three years.

Funding Notes

To be eligible for this funding in full, applicants must be a UK national or have a permanent residence in the UK. Due to funding restrictions, all EU nationals are eligible to receive a fees-only award if they do not have “settled status” in the UK.

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