Continuous authentication to mitigate UAV cyber-attacks

Eligibility: UK/International (including EU) graduates with the required entry requirements

Duration: Full-Time – between three and three and a half years fixed term. Up to 3.5 full-time.

Application deadline: 27 May 2023 

Interview date: Will be confirmed to shortlisted candidates

Start date: September 2023

For further details contact: Dr Thomas Statheros


This PhD project is part of the Cotutelle arrangement between Coventry University, UK and Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia.

The successful applicant will spend the 1st year at Deakin University and the following year at Coventry University and then the final 1.5 years at Deakin University

The supervision team will be drawn from the two Universities.

Project details

Zero Trust Architectures (ZTAs) are built upon the notions of least privilege, granular access control and strict access control policy enforcement. UAV-based software platforms engage with UAV systems (comprising ground controllers and a central cloud) based upon specific use cases. For instance, a UAV/UAS deployed to engage with remote patients and to collect/transport pathology samples would adhere to predefined rules that ascertain authentication of users to a UAV and for subsequent granting of UAV data and service access. Long term assurance of authenticity of assets to UAS and vice versa expose the system to identity-based cyber threats.

In this project, it is intended to model cyber threats and to study their effects against the heterogeneity of UAV/UAS software and hardware architectures. Subsequently, the project would comprise the design of fail-safe authentication schemes that operate even when a UAV/UAS is disconnected from a ground controller or the cloud via definition, as well as validation and evaluation of proposed continuous authentication protocols.


Tuition fees, stipend (£18,622 p/a) and additional allowances.


The successful candidate will receive comprehensive research training including technical, personal and professional skills.

All researchers at Coventry University (from PhD to Professor) are part of the Doctoral College and Centre for Research Capability and Development, which provides support with high-quality training and career development activities. 

Candidate specification

Applicants must meet the admission and scholarship criteria for both Coventry University and Deakin University for entry to the cotutelle programme 

This includes;  

  • Applicants should have graduated within the top 15% of their undergraduate cohort. This might include a high 2:1 in a relevant discipline/subject area with a minimum 70% mark (80% for Australian graduates) in the project element or equivalent with a minimum 70% overall module average (80% for Australian graduates). 
  • A Masters degree in a relevant subject area, with overall mark at minimum Merit level. In addition, the mark for the Masters dissertation (or equivalent) must be a minimum of 80%. Please note that where a candidate has 70-79% and can provide evidence of research experience to meet equivalency to the minimum first-
  • class honours equivalent (80%+) additional evidence can be submitted and may include independently peer-reviewed publications, research-related awards or prizes and/or professional reports. 
  • Language proficiency (IELTS overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component).  
  • The potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within a prescribed period of study.  

For an overview of each University’s entry requirements please visit:  

Please note that it is essential that applicants confirm that they are able to physically locate to both Coventry University (UK) and Deakin University (Australia).

Supervisory Team: 

Dr Zubair Baig (DU - DoS)
Dr Adnan Anwar (DU)
Dr Thomas Statheros (CU)
Dr Jeremy Bryans (CU)
Prof Stewart Birrell (CU)

How to apply

All applications require full supporting documentation, a covering letter, plus an up to 2000-word supporting statement showing how the applicant’s expertise and interests are relevant to the project. 

All candidates must apply to both Universities.

To find out more about the project please contact Dr Thomas Statheros and Dr Zubair Baig

Apply to Coventry University Apply to Deakin University
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