The Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 was established in 1850 by Her Majesty Queen Victoria to organise the first world trade fair and over the past 164 years it has supported the academic development of some of Britain's brightest new talent, through its fellowship and scholarship schemes. The organisation awards just 25 postgraduate Fellowships and Scholarships a year, for advanced study and research in science, engineering, the built environment and design. Fiona first worked at Selex ES Edinburgh in 2012 when she completed a summer placement funded by the Institute of Physics. She then returned to Selex ES in 2014, after receiving a cross-discipline PhD Placement which is being co-funded by Edinburgh University’s Schools of Geoscience (supervisor: Prof Ian Woodhouse) and Engineering (supervisor: Prof Bernie Mulgrew) and Selex ES, to research environmental monitoring. The fellowship funding will allow Fiona to develop her research into radar for geoscience applications.
Fiona first learned of the 1851 Royal Commission Industrial Fellowship award from Selex ES Systems Engineer and former Industrial Fellowship award winner Stuart Kennedy (also supervised by Prof Mulgrew in Engineering). Fiona made her application and completed a tough interview with the commission, where her knowledge of the technology was deliberately tested to give her the opportunity to show the robustness of her proposal for Synthetic Aperture Radar Interferometry (InSAR). Fiona has been developing this project at Selex ES under the supervision of David Greig, Lead Systems Engineer.
Synthetic Aperture Radar Interferometry (InSAR) is a technique used to produce Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) using high resolution SAR images. DEMs of the Earth’s surface are used extensively in the field of Geoscience for applications such as mapping, forecasting and prevention of risks caused by natural phenomena, such as landslides and earthquakes. In Fiona’s project, a helicopter repeatedly passes a site of interest to collect height information. This data can then be compared with further readings collected over time to show changes in a landscape. Geoscientists have already expressed surprise at the reliability of the data collected, as there had been an assumption that the airborne aircraft would be too unstable to record information in comparison to a stable satellite, however the data has proved to be accurate.
Fiona said: "I am very excited to have received this award as it will help me to develop an autonomously run data package providing the full cycle of data gathering and graphical representation, that can be developed for geoscientists and environmental monitoring agencies working in areas affected by landslides, flooding, earthquakes and deforestation."
David added: "This is potentially a very interesting new direction for our company and this award highlights our effective collaborations with local universities, but most of all, Fiona's boundless enthusiasm for the subject. Her scientific sensibilities allow her to maintain a very fresh perspective on where we can take this technology in the future."