Intelligent real-time UAV autonomy for compromised UAV/UAS system data due to 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

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 Coventry University and the following year at Deakin University and then the final 1.5 years at Coventry University

The supervision team will be drawn from the two Universities.

Project details

The current state-of-the-art command and control UAV/UAS (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles/Unmanned Aerial Systems) heavily rely on original and modified open-source hardware and software architectures e.g., real-time and Linux-based operating systems, Robot Operating System (ROS), and widely used communication technologies such as VHF, 3G – 5G, and Satellite services on both the UAV flying platforms and the Ground Station/s. These architectures have some inherited security and reliability vulnerabilities at system, software, and hardware levels that can result in UAV/UAS data alteration or corruption under cyber-attacks. New continuous authentication techniques could potentially identify unauthorized and/or data corruption, nevertheless, during the identification and correction period the UAS/UAV system could lack real-time navigation data. Therefore, the project's aim is to intelligently compute real-time autonomous actions and path-planning trajectories that utilize the last authenticated and/or secure systems’ data for the UAV navigation. To seamlessly activate the real-time intelligent autonomy for the UAV during compromised UAV/UAS system data, the software and hardware architectures related specifications shall be appropriately augmented. The new system definition will manage the activation of the UAV's intelligent real-time autonomy based on only a limited number of reliable real-time data and/or last authenticated real-time data. So, the flight mission is not compromised until the next complete real-time reliable and authenticated UAV/UAS data.


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.  

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)

Additional requirements

Previous experience and related evidence in the following OS and development tools (at least 4 from software and 2 from hardware)

  • Real-time path-planning
  • Control
  • Linux
  • C++ / for Linux and embedded processors e.g. ARM
  • Matlab
  • ROS (Robotic Operating System)
  • Open-source software autopilot e.g. PX4 and Ardupilot (C++, firmware level)
  • Open-source autopilot hardware architecture e.g. Pixhawk
  • Open-source development boards e.g Raspberry pi

Supervisory Team:

Dr Thomas Statheros (DoS - CU)
Dr Jeremy Bryans (CU)
Prof Stewart Birrell (CU)
Dr Zubair Baig (DU)
Dr Naeem Syed (DU)
Dr Muna Al-Hawawreh (DU)

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.

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