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Understanding the turbulent air environment around hospital helipads for safe air ambulance operations

   Department of Mechanical, Aerospace & Materials Engineering

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  Dr Neale Watson, Prof M White, Prof Olivier Cadot  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

About the Project:

This fully-funded PhD project provides a unique opportunity to pursue research in advanced computational and experimental fluid mechanics, and in piloted flight simulation. The overall aim of the project is to create a flight simulation environment in which a test pilot will land a helicopter to a hospital helipad in realistic challenging wind conditions. The purpose will be to determine safe levels of air turbulence, and to propose possible platform design mitigations.

The project will be based in the Flight Science and Technology research group at the University of Liverpool, which has an excellent international reputation for its research into the piloted simulation of helicopters in turbulent environments. In this research, pilots conduct flying missions in the University’s full-motion flight simulator, where air turbulence imposes unsteady aerodynamic loads on the aircraft. The unsteady velocities which characterise the turbulent air flow are created using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), which is then integrated with the simulator to give the pilot a realistic experience of flying through turbulent air and landing on a hospital helipad.

The student will develop CFD skills to compute the complex unsteady air flow over a full-scale structure of an elevated helipad. Experiments will then measure the turbulent flow over a model-scale structure in a wind and water tunnel, providing data to validate the CFD calculations. Real-world flow measurement data, provided by industrial partners, will also be used to validate the CFD method. Once created, the CFD-generated air flows over the structure will be used to create a simulation environment in which experienced test pilots will conduct prescribed flying tasks to assess the fidelity of the simulation, the response of the helicopter and the difficulty of the task.

This research project has the potential to inform the design of hospital helipads, increase the operational capability of air ambulances and influence future regulations. The student will work alongside other experienced researchers in the School of Engineering and will have the opportunity to work with highly experienced flight test pilots and with industrial and research partners from the UK, Europe and North America.

Start Date: 1st October 2023

Further Details:

This PhD project is funded by The Faculty of Science & Engineering at The University of Liverpool and will start on 1st October 2023.

Successful candidates who meet the University of Liverpool eligibility criteria will be awarded a Faculty of Science & Engineering studentship for 3.5 years, covering UK tuition fees and an annual tax-free stipend (e.g. £17,688 p.a. for 2022-23).

Faculty of Science & Engineering students benefit from bespoke graduate training and £5,000 for training, travel and conferences.

The Faculty of Science & Engineering is committed to equality, diversity, widening participation and inclusion. Academic qualifications are considered alongside non-academic experience. Our recruitment process considers potential with the same weighting as past experience. Students must complete a personal statement profoma and ensure this is included in their online application.

How to Apply:

All applicants must complete the personal statement proforma. This is instead of a normal personal/supporting statement/cover letter. The proforma is designed to standardise this part of the application to minimise the difference between those who are given support and those who are not. The proforma can be found here: More information on the application process can be found here: When applying online, students should ensure they include the department name in the ‘Programme Applied For’ section of the online form, as well as the Faculty of Science & Engineering as the ‘studentship type’ in the finance section.

Funding Notes

UK students are only eligible for a fully-funded  Faculty of Science & Engineering studentship; overseas students are eligible to apply if they can financially cover the difference in UK and Overseas tuition fees, cover the costs of their student visa, NHS health surcharge, travel insurance and transport to the UK, as these are excluded from the funding.
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