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PhD Studentship: Efficiency Enhancement of Class-A Foams by Means of Metal Oxide Nanoparticles for Self-Organising Swarms of Autonomous Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to Fight Wildfires

Coventry University - Institute for Future Transport and Cities

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Coventry
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: £16,000 per annum
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 10th July 2019
Closes: 30th September 2019

Coventry University has been voted ‘Modern University of the Year’ for three straight years (The Times/Sunday Times Good University Guide 2014−2016) and is ranked in the UK’s top 15 overall for the fifth year in a row (Guardian University Guide). We have a global reputation for high quality teaching and research with impact. Almost two-thirds (61%) of our research was judged ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014.

Covering the full spectrum of land, rail, air and water-based transport, the Institute for Future Transport and Cities (IFTC) at Coventry University addresses the whole innovation chain from design, materials, advanced manufacturing, systems and supply chain as well as the business environment. Within the IFTC, the Autonomous Vehicles & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (AVAILab) has been recently established. While open to a wide spectrum of applications, its main motivation is in conducting research that involves mathematical modelling, optimisation, soft computing, self-organisation, swarm robotics and autonomous navigation.

Coventry University is inviting applications from suitably qualified graduates for a fully-funded PhD studentship, which is part-funded by the IFTC and part-funded by the Lloyd’s Register Foundation International Consortium of Nanotechnologies (LRF ICON) ( The project will be carried out within the AVAILab ( under the main supervision of Dr Mauro S. Innocente (,, with the collaboration of Dr Evangelos Gkanas (, Prof Guillermo Rein ( and his Imperial HazeLab (, and Jordi Vendrell from the Pau Costa Foundation (

Fire seasons are growing in length and severity around the world. The Forestry Commission predicts that destructive wildfires will increase in frequency and severity due to increased land-use pressure and climate change. Therefore, the development of more effective and safer means to fight their propagation is of utmost importance.

During the first few minutes of the start of a wildfire, there is a containment window. A swarm of self-organising Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) may be quickly deployed in any terrain to suppress the fire autonomously before the window closes –or at least minimise the damage afterwards– without risking human lives. A key challenge is the design of efficient and environmentally friendly materials that can be carried by UAVs. Class-A foams are used for cooling the fire while also coating the fuel to prevent its contact with oxygen and stop combustion, reducing the amount of water required for suppression.

The aim of this project is to design an efficient suppressant to be carried by autonomous firefighting UAVs. Nanoparticles will be incorporated into Class-A foams to further enhance their cooling and coating actions whilst potentially also having a catalytic effect. Nanoparticles will be synthesised, characterised and incorporated to the foam. The enhanced suppressant will then be tested, modelled and coupled with an existing model of self-organising swarms of UAVs for initial simulation-based tests. Field tests will be carried out later as a combined effort between the AVAILab (Coventry University), the Imperial HazeLab (Imperial College) and the Pau Costa Foundation (Spain).

To find out more about the project, please contact: Dr Mauro S. Innocente (

To apply online, please visit

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

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