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Fully Funded PhD Position Developing Wild Animal Tracking Systems Using Mataki Technology and UAVs For Use In Conservation


   Faculty of Engineering & Technology

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  Prof D Burton, Prof S Wich  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Introduction:
The Faculty of Engineering & Technology and the Faculty of Science at Liverpool John Moores University would like to announce four new PhD positions related to the exciting and rapidly emerging field of Drone Technology and Applied Drone Technology. This strategic investment by the Faculties supports a total of four fully funded PhD studentships in interdisciplinary research in the fields of Science and Engineering.

The multidisciplinary projects all involve Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or drones, however the focus of the different research projects ranges from engineering and technological development to the application of UAV technology to ecological conservation and human evolutionary biomechanical anthropology.

Project Description:
This PhD project involves the development of an animal tracking system utilising UAVs and Mataki wireless GPS tags. These devices are Open Design and Open Source, offering a cheap, lightweight and very powerful technology for wild animal tracking.
Mataki systems are usually enclosed in a collar or tag that is attached to the animal in such a way that after a period it will bio-degrade and fall off. The device periodically records scientifically important data regarding the animal’s behaviour. A typical Mataki is approximately 8g in weight and has: a microcontroller, a radio transceiver, a GPS receiver, a three-axis accelerometer, a pressure and light-level sensor. Thus over a period of time the device builds up a time-stamped history of the animal and its movements/position.

Because of the presence of the radio transceiver and micro-controller the Mataki can be programmed such that when one animal equipped with a device is in close proximity to another similarly fitted, the two devices exchange data. Thus it is possible that each individual animal in a group may be carrying the data of the entire group. This means that only one device needs to be recovered and uploaded from to garner a great deal of high quality data.

Within this project it is proposed to design a Mataki device which is modified for aerial use from a UAV. The idea is to design a specialist UAV to carry that device into proximity with a subject animal and so capture the data from it in the same way that Mataki devices work on an animal-to animal basis. This would have a number of significant advantages. Firstly it would facilitate data retrieval without having to recover the physical device. Secondly it would make possible the regular reacquisition of data at intermediate stages whilst an experiment was on-going.

Initial work would involve the design a new type of UAV capable of long endurance, extreme low-noise level, flight. This device would be capable of loitering in the region of a group of subject animals for up to one hour at a height of approximately 100 feet. This represents a significant technical and innovative challenge. The Mataki design would then be modified to work via the UAV’s own on-board telemetry system, thus allowing both upload of data from a ground based subject animal and simultaneous transmission to a user ground station some hundreds of metres away. Again this system integration is a technical challenge and it is believed that this would be the first time that UAV control systems have been adapted to relay ground based data of this sort.

Eligibility:
Candidates should be either a Masters graduate, or an Honours graduate with a First-Class, or a minimum of an upper Second-Class degree in an appropriate discipline such as; Engineering, Robotics, or Computer Science. Proven skills in electronics, C++ application development, as well as prior experience with GPS and/or UAVs would be an advantage, but are not essential as full training will be given.

For informal enquiries contact contact Prof. David Burton [Email Address Removed] Director Of The General Engineering Research Institute at Liverpool John Moores University, or Professor Serge Wich, School of Natural Science & Psychology, Faculty of Science ([Email Address Removed]).

Application Information:
To apply you should send the following by email to [Email Address Removed]
1. A cover letter, including the code of the specific project(s) that you are interested in (see below in individual descriptions), outlining your interest in this research area and any relevant experience that you have in the field. Please explain what makes you suitable for this position. Tuition fees are covered by a LJMU Bursary. For non-EU candidates there must be a clear statement explaining how you would expect to pay the difference in EU and overseas fees.
2. Your CV (maximum two pages) indicating the names of two academic referees.

Deadlines:
Closing date for applications is 26th February 2016. Interview dates and times will be advised shortly after this date. Late applications will be considered until the positions have been filled.

Specific eligibility requirements for each of the four PhD positions varies for each case and is given as part of the individual position descriptions below, along with email contacts for informal queries linked to specific projects.

Funding Notes

These PhD studentships are for 3 years and are intended to start on 1 March 2016 or as soon as a suitable candidate has been appointed. Each studentship provides a stipend of £14,057 per annum (15/16 RCUK rate) plus tuition fees at the UK/EU rate for up to three years. International (non EU) students may apply, but will need to find the difference in fees between those for a ‘UK/EU’ and ‘international’ student themselves.
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