PhD scholarship in UAV Airborne Geophysics

DTU Space
Tuesday 10 Oct 17

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DTU Space is seeking an applicant for a 3-year fully funded Ph.D. position in UAV-based geophysics.

Airborne magnetic surveys map the variation of the Earth's magnetic field strength caused by magnetic materials in the near subsurface. Advanced lightweight and long-range UAVs hold tremendous potential for airborne magnetic surveying due to low operating costs and high flexibility. In addition, the use of UAVs is ideal for collecting very dense data over smaller grids and at low altitude. Such high-resolution surveys are an important component e.g. in mineral exploration and in detection of Unexploded Ordnance (explosive remnants of war: UXO).

DTU Space has recently launched the UAV-QMS project (Innovation Fund Denmark) with the purpose to develop a novel UAV geophysical survey platform for high-quality (i) total field and (ii) horizontal gradiometer magnetic surveys using magnetometer birds. Lightweight magnetometer birds and precise GNSS positioning of the birds are currently being developed as part of the UAV-QMS project. The birds will be equipped with absolute field Potassium magnetometers.

Acquisition of high-quality magnetic data relies on high signal-to-noise ratio magnetic data as well as precise positioning and attitude determination of the sensor platform (i.e. the bird). You will be in charge of the software integration of GNSS position and attitude data with the magnetometer data. The main purpose is to develop easy-to-use magnetometer processing software for the integrated UAV and magnetometer bird survey platform.

As part of the UAV-QMS project, we aim to fully integrate our UAV with (i) a single-sensor bird and (ii) a horizontal gradiometer magnetometer bird. You will be in charge of developing the software needed to integrate and process magnetometer and GNSS data from both platforms. The end product of your software will be high-quality magnetic anomaly data ready for interpretational analysis (e.g. geophysical inversion).

The software development is highly dependent on the hardware configuration of the bird(s) and the final version of our GPS and attitude system. Hence, your software development will be an iterative process, going hand-in-hand with the iterative development of the bird design (ongoing work) and the development of the precise positioning system of the bird(s) (ongoing PhD project at DTU Space). You are expected to work closely together with our external consultants (responsible for the bird design), another PhD student responsible for the GNSS and attitude system of the bird, as well as researchers and engineers in the Geomagnetism Division at DTU Space.

The development of our integrated system will be tested continuously over the project period. You will take active part in our planned flight tests both in Denmark and Greenland with the aim of contributing to the iterative improvement of the hardware and software of the integrated UAV and magnetometer bird(s).

The PhD position is fully funded by the UAV-QMS project (Innovation Fund Denmark) and will be a collaborative effort between DTU Space and four private companies including the Danish UAV-company Sky-Watch A/S.

The successful candidate will have a background in geophysics, engineering or similar. A strong background in magnetic data acquisition/theory and a fundamental background in GNSS is preferred as well as a programming skills within Matlab and/or Python. Willingness to travel and work in an international environment as well as performing field work in Denmark, UK and Greenland with the UAV is essential. Insight into geophysical inversion theory would also be a benefit. 

Responsibilities and tasks
Your responsibility will be to develop an easy-to-use software package for processing of UAV-based airborne magnetic data acquired using a (i) single-sensor and (ii) horizontal gradiometer magnetometer bird. The software will integrate GNSS data, attitude data (pitch, roll, yaw) and magnetometer data.

You will collaborate with people of the UAV-QMS project and contribute to the iterative development of the final bird design and overall UAV-bird platform setup by using your expertise within magnetic data acquisition.

You will take active part in our planned flight tests in remote areas of Denmark and Greenland.

You have a strong background in engineering and/or geophysics with a focus on magnetic data acquisition/theory and preferably GNSS positioning.

You have strong programming skills within Matlab and/or Python.

You are a creative person and eager to collaborate with people of very different background in order to optimize the end-product of the UAV-QMS project.

You are independent and not afraid to take a lead.

Candidates should have a master's degree in engineering or a similar degree with an academic level equivalent to the master's degree in engineering.

Approval and Enrolment
The scholarship for the PhD degree are subject to academic approval, and the candidates will be enrolled in one of the general degree programmes of DTU. For information about the general requirements for enrolment and the general planning of the scholarship studies, please see the DTU PhD Guide.

The assessment of the applicants will be made by Professor Nils Olsen (Geomagnetism), Senior Researcher Arne Døssing (Geomagnetism), and Researcher Jakob Jakobsen (Geodesy).

We offer
DTU is a leading technical university globally recognized for the excellence of its research, education, innovation and scientific advice. We offer a rewarding and challenging job in an international environment. We strive for academic excellence in an environment characterized by collegial respect and an academic freedom tempered by responsibility.

Salary and appointment terms
The appointment will be based on the collective agreement with the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations. The allowance will be agreed with the relevant union. The period of employment is 3 years.

The monthly salary is approximately DKK 29.700 (equivalent to approx. USD 4.800) including pension contribution.

The workplace will be on DTU Lyngby Campus. A study period of up to 6 months can be expected abroad. Fieldwork campaigns in Denmark, UK and Greenland are expected. Expected starting date is April 1st 2018. 

Further information
Further information may be obtained from Arne Døssing DTU Space, phone: +45 4525 9773; email:

You can read more about DTU Space on  

Please submit your online application no later than 15 December 2017. Applications must be submitted as one PDF file containing all materials to be given consideration. To apply, please open the link "Apply online", fill in the online application form, and attach all your materials in English in one PDF file. The file must include: 

  • A letter motivating the application (cover letter)
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Grade transcripts and BSc/MSc diploma
  • Excel sheet with translation of grades to the Danish grading system (see guidelines and excel spreadsheet here)

Candidates may apply prior to ob­tai­ning their master's degree, but cannot begin before having received it.

All interested candidates irrespective of age, gender, race, disability, religion or ethnic background are encouraged to apply.

DTU Space is the national leader in Precise Navigation for UAVs and in geomagnetic observations and models. We offer a high quality PhD program in an international environment. DTU Space has together with Sky-Watch developed the Smart UAV platform, specially designed for geophysical surveying of all kind. The first prototype of this platform was released in Spring 2017 as a fully autonomous and magnetically clean hybrid multi-rotor and fixed-wing UAV with 5 meters wingspan and an expected autonomous flight range by the end of the UAV-QMS project of more than 100 km. We intend to adopt the Smart UAV as the primary surveying platform for the UAV-QMS magnetometer birds, although other (commercially available) UAVs may be modified as well for flying with the new magnetometer birds. 

DTU is a technical university providing internationally leading research, education, innovation and scientific advice. Our staff of 5,800 advance science and technology to create innovative solutions that meet the demands of society; and our 11,000 students are being educated to address the technological challenges of the future. DTU is an independent academic university collaborating globally with business, industry, government, and public agencies.