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PhD Studentship: Reasoning and Digital Twins Exploring Fault Propagation and Maintenance

Cranfield University

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Cranfield
Funding for: Self-funded Students
Funding amount: This is a self-funded opportunity.
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 4th August 2021
Closes: 17th December 2021
Reference: SATM228


Applications are invited for a PhD in the area of Reasoning and Digital Twins. The reasoning is very intuitive (human), used in a number of fields, but not often explored in academia. Linking this to a Digital Twin, the virtual equivalent of a physical asset, is an exciting endeavour. The research will leverage an already completed PhD, which provides the framework for a number of different research activities. Although applied to aircraft in this previous instance, applications targeting other platforms/sectors will be considered.


Maintenance of high-value assets is a costly and time-consuming business, with MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) costing £14B a year in civil aerospace alone. Historically, maintenance has been carried out on a scheduled basis, irrespective of a component’s wear or degradation. Condition Based Maintenance (CBM), only repairing/replacing a component based on its condition, is seen as a paradigm shift, and IVHM (Integrated Vehicle Health Management) as the capability that will enable it. As such IVHM covers a wide spectrum of technologies, from building business cases and examining standards and legislation to sensor technology and algorithm development. IVHM Centre physical applications range from benchtop experiments to Cranfield’s B737 aircraft.

The approach of using reasoning, coupled with a Digital Twin of the target system, to explore fault propagation and maintenance is viable in a recently completed PhD thesis. The work was entitled FAVER (Framework for Aerospace Vehicle Reasoning) and, as its name suggests, provides a framework in which to explore fault detection and propagation between aircraft systems. In this work Digital Twins of the engine, environmental control system, electrical power system and fuel system were constructed, along with their diagnostic algorithms (to detect faults) and interaction with other systems. The aim of the project is to extend this work in a number of different and exciting areas. Examples of these, but not limited by them, are i) Making the Digital Twin (DT) simulations unsteady (currently only steady state is considered) and marrying these, in real-time, to laboratory hardware. ii) Expanding the DTs to other systems, with calibration, test and validation. iii) Developing reasoning for each system such that the overall integration at a vehicle level is simplified and more powerful. iv) Formalising the minimum number of sensors needed to support the vehicle reasoning. The exact projects taken forward will very much depend on the candidate.

Cranfield, the IVHM Centre and DARTeC are uniquely positioned in their access to the forefront of industrial thinking and research. Coupled with world-class facilities this makes it a very attractive place for anyone considering a career at the leading edge of engineering. It is expected that conference papers, and attendance to disseminate the results of the research, will follow. Training will be given in subject areas as required.

Entry requirements

Applicants should have a first or second class UK honours degree or equivalent in a related discipline. This project would suit… (a) graduate and post-graduate students with a degree in engineering (preferably in mechanical or aerospace), computer/data science, or any other related physical sciences subject, and (b) Researchers and Engineers with a background/interest in maintenance and health management systems. PhD candidates should have software programming skills and familiarity with the aerospace (or target) sector. Above all, candidates with highly innovative approaches, good ideas, high motivation, and willingness to learn are welcome. 

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