Quantification of greenhouse gas emissions using unmanned aerial vehicles

   Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

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  Dr Grant Allen, Prof M Burton, Dr H Ricketts  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This PhD project builds on world-leading research at Manchester to more accurately understand and quantify greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs - also known as drones).

Potential targets for GHG emissions quantification in the project include landfill sites, oil and gas infrastructure, peatlands, and wetlands. The science and technological aims of surveying such sources will be to improve accuracy in emissions quantification (by survey approach, data analysis, and flux modelling), and to understand the processes and practices leading to GHG emission. A primary focus of the project will concern the understanding of methane emissions. This has scope to extend to strategies for mitigating emissions such as the rapid identification and prevention of unnecessary sources, e.g. methane leaks, and/or by understanding the physical and environmental controls on biogenic sources of methane.

There is the opportunity for the student to join existing research projects in collaboration with other UK research teams that plan to study these sources in the United Kingdom and internationally.

The project will include piloting recently-developed UAVs and the operation of state-of-the-art GHG instrumentation (with training overseen by the supervisory team). Emission flux calculations will be use and develop flux inversion models, which will be validated against controlled emission experiments. The project will require calibration and operation of field and laboratory instrumentation (as well as drone aircraft) and analysis and interpretation of the UAV survey datasets gathered.

Given the intensive practical and fieldwork nature of this project, students should expect to travel extensively within the UK (and potentially abroad) and be comfortable with working outside for extended periods of time in potentially challenging conditions (e.g. within the grounds of industrial facilities). Experience with operating UAVs is preferred, but not essential as training will be given. A keen interest in learning (or existing experience) in scientific analysis using Python (or another coding language) will be a key requirement for data analysis and visualisations.

The high impact of this PhD concerns not only the important scientific understanding that will come from the emissions datasets but also potential work alongside policymakers (Department for Net Zero, Environment Agency and local authorities), with whom we have working relationships, to directly inform future policy direction in support of Net Zero targets. The University of Manchester also has working project relationships with UK UAV survey companies, with whom the successful applicant may benefit from involvement with.

Overall, the context of this project relates to GHG emissions quantification and reduction, with the chance to help assess the UK's progress towards meeting Net Zero objectives.


Applicants should have, or expect to achieve, at least a 2.1 honours degree or a master’s (or international equivalent) in a relevant science or engineering related discipline.


At Manchester we offer a range of scholarships, studentships and awards at university, faculty and department level, to support both UK and overseas postgraduate researchers applying for competition and self-funded projects.

For more information, visit our funding page or search our funding database for specific scholarships, studentships and awards you may be eligible for.

Before you apply

We strongly recommend that you contact the supervisor(s) for this project before you apply.

How to apply

Apply online through our website: https://uom.link/pgr-apply-fap

When applying, you’ll need to specify the full name of this project, the name of your supervisor, if you already having funding or if you wish to be considered for available funding through the university, details of your previous study, and names and contact details of two referees.

Your application will not be processed without all of the required documents submitted at the time of application, and we cannot accept responsibility for late or missed deadlines. Incomplete applications will not be considered.

After you have applied you will be asked to upload the following supporting documents:

  • Final Transcript and certificates of all awarded university level qualifications
  • Interim Transcript of any university level qualifications in progress
  • CV
  • Contact details for two referees (please make sure that the contact email you provide is an official university/work email address as we may need to verify the reference)
  • English Language certificate (if applicable)

If you have any questions about making an application, please contact our admissions team by emailing [Email Address Removed].

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. We know that diversity strengthens our research community, leading to enhanced research creativity, productivity and quality, and societal and economic impact.

We actively encourage applicants from diverse career paths and backgrounds and from all sections of the community, regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation and transgender status.

We also support applications from those returning from a career break or other roles. We consider offering flexible study arrangements (including part-time: 50%, 60% or 80%, depending on the project/funder).

Chemistry (6) Computer Science (8) Environmental Sciences (13) Mathematics (25) Physics (29)

Funding Notes

At The University of Manchester, we offer a range of scholarships, studentships and awards at university, faculty and department level, to support both UK and overseas postgraduate researchers. Please see the project description for further details.

How good is research at The University of Manchester in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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