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PhD Studentship in Geospatial Engineering: Smart Earth Observation Satellite Constellation

Processing satellite data plays an important role in the ecosystem of space based earth observation (EO). Currently, satellites are tasked from the ground to collect data on demand and download it whenever passing over assigned ground stations.

All processing is then performed on the ground in dedicated data centres, or on the cloud. Simply, there is no “intelligence” on-board the satellites to perform data analysis. Key consequences are a vast amount of data that needs to be stored and processed on the ground, leading to considerable operating costs and inefficiencies that cascade to delays in decision-making.

The concept of ‘smart satellites’ is an emerging research topic. Most research to date, such as the ESA Phi-Sat-1 mission, has focused towards on-board processing to optimise data transmission. This proposed PhD research will build upon this, looking towards the collective potential of constellations of satellites combined with modern Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data communications. The research programme will rethink the EO modus operandi to enable satellite on-board image processing, data analysis, information exchange with other satellites and the ground, to invent an overall intelligent EO ecosystem.

Number Of Awards


Start Date


Award Duration

4 years

Application Closing Date

31st January 2024


EPSRC ICASE with Airbus Defence and Space


Jon Mills, Shidong Wang (Newcastle University), Andrew Tewkesbury, Slimane Merzouk (Airbus)

Eligibility Criteria

You must have, or expect to gain, a minimum 2:1 Honours degree or international equivalent in a subject relevant to the proposed PhD project (inc. computing, mathematics, engineering, physics). Enthusiasm for research, the ability to think and work independently, excellent analytical skills and strong verbal and written communication skills are also essential requirements.

Home and international applicants (inc. EU) are welcome to apply and if successful will receive a full studentship. Applicants whose first language is not English require an IELTS score of 6.5 overall with a minimum of 5.5 in all sub-skills.

International applicants may require an ATAS (Academic Technology Approval Scheme) clearance certificate prior to obtaining their visa and to study on this programme.

How To Apply

You must apply through the University’s Apply to Newcastle Portal

Once registered select ‘Create a Postgraduate Application’.

Use ‘Course Search’ to identify your programme of study:

search for the ‘Course Title’ using the programme code: 8040F

Research Area: Geomatics

Select ‘PhD Civil Engineering (full time)' as the programme of study

You will then need to provide the following information in the ‘Further Details’ section:

  • a ‘Personal Statement’ (this is a mandatory field) - upload a document or write a statement directly in to the application form.

  • include the studentship code ENG125 in the ‘Studentship/Partnership Reference’ field.

  • when prompted for how you are providing your research proposal - select ‘Write Proposal’. You should then type in the title of the research project from this advert. You do not need to upload a research proposal.

In the ‘Supporting Documentation’ section please upload:

  • your CV

Contact Details

Professor Jon Mills, School of Engineering, Newcastle University,


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