PhD Position in Mission Planning Systems for Autonomous Ships

1 day left

Trondheim, Norway
30 Oct 2020
End of advertisement period
25 Nov 2020
Contract Type
Full Time

About the position

We have a vacant PhD position in mission planning for autonomous ships at the Department of Engineering Cybernetics.

The PhD candidate will work on challenging research problems related to automated planning and scheduling (AI planning) for autonomous ship operations. Although autonomous ships will rely heavily on their motion control systems for accomplishing tasks such as path tracking, docking and collision avoidance, for an operation to be fully autonomous the ship must be able to tackle a wide range of additional situations that are outside the scope of low-level guidance and control, such as: When to switch from one stage of the mission to the next (from undocking to transit phase, for instance); What should happen in case of an unexpected situation, such as an unforeseen combination of faults, or sudden lack of vital information at any point during the mission. Such decisions must be made by a high-level agent that is aware of the exact mission objectives, has available the best possible update regarding the current status of the ship and the mission, and has an overview of available resources (including, time, energy, and even the possibility to pass information to a human supervisor onshore).

The mission planning system must generate action sequences (plans) that are feasible, consider all relevant constraints, and can be updated online, since the uncertainty in the marine environment will often render initial planning irrelevant at some point during the mission. From the aforementioned, it becomes obvious that mission planning will be strongly coupled with the ship’s motion control systems and sensors.

This aspect of autonomy has in the past been considered in the context of Space missions. AI planning has been instrumental in those cases, and the successful candidate will be tasked to develop similar methodologies customized to autonomous ship missions. All proposed methodologies will be tested and verified via full-scale experiments.

The position is part of SFI AutoShip, the new 8-year research-based innovation Center in autonomous ships. The Centre focuses on autonomy, digital infrastructure, maritime transport, safety and risk analysis, maritime law, human-machine interaction, and cyber security, with partners from research, public sector and maritime industry. For more information about SFI AutoShip, see .

The position reports to Associate Professor Anastasios Lekkas as the main scientific supervisor of the research.

There are several PhD positions announced for SFI AutoShip, and you are encouraged to apply for more than one position if they agree with your background and interests.

Why apply for a PhD position?

The main objective of a PhD position is to develop skills to solve complex problems related to the research topic. Being part of a project like SFI Autoship, gives you a unique arena for collaboration and networking, also across disciplines and with industry. The Norwegian industry needs personnel with PhD competence to stay competitive and develop new jobs for the future. A PhD degree also opens new attractive career opportunities at universities and research institutes. 

Duties of the position

The main objective of the research is to develop mission planning systems for autonomous ships based on AI planning. The purpose of the mission planning system is to generate action sequences (plans) in a reactive manner, which will then be implemented by the motion control systems of the ship (potentially other modules too, such as communication systems) in order for the ship to accomplish its mission. As part of the research activities, you will collaborate actively with some of the partners in the SFI AutoShip Center. You will be encouraged to have a research stay with one of the collaborating universities outside Norway during the research period. 

Required selection criteria

The PhD-position's main objective is to qualify for work in research positions. The qualification requirement is completion of a master’s degree or second degree (equivalent to 120 credits) with a strong academic background in cybernetics, electrical engineering, mathematics, computer science, physics, electronic systems or equivalent education with a grade of B or better in terms of NTNU’s grading scale. Applicants with no letter grades from previous studies must have an equally good academic foundation. Applicants who are unable to meet these criteria may be considered only if they can document that they are particularly suitable candidates for education leading to a PhD degree.

Required qualifications

  • Academic background as listed above 
  • Excellent English skills (written and oral)
  • Programming skills, using Python, C++, Matlab,  and/or other languages. 

Preferred qualifications

  • Knowledge and skills in AI planning, and/or guidance and control for robotic systems 
  • Experience with autonomous systems. 

The appointment is to be made in accordance with the regulations in force concerning State Employees and Civil Servants and national guidelines for appointment as PhD, post doctor and research assistant.

The position is also open for an integrated PhD for NTNU students starting the final year of their master's degree in autumn 2021; see for information about the integrated PhD.

Personal characteristics

The candidate is expected to:

  • Be scientifically curious and open to new research challenges
  • Demonstrate independence and persistence in addressing technical problems
  • Be flexible and reliable, with ability to work effectively independently and as part of a team

We offer

Salary and conditions

PhD candidates are remunerated in code 1017, and are normally remunerated at gross from NOK 479 600 per annum before tax, depending on qualifications and seniority. From the salary, 2% is deducted as a contribution to the Norwegian Public Service Pension Fund.

The period of employment is three years with the possibility of one-year extension for teaching duties at the Department of Engineering Cybernetics.

Appointment to a PhD position requires admission to the PhD programme in Engineering Cybernetics within three months of employment, and that you participate in an organized PhD programme during the employment period.

The engagement is to be made in accordance with the regulations in force concerning State Employees and Civil Servants, and the acts relating to Control of the Export of Strategic Goods, Services and Technology. Candidates who by assessment of the application and attachment are seen to conflict with the criteria in the latter law will be prohibited from recruitment to NTNU. After the appointment you must assume that there may be changes in the area of work.

About the application

You should ensure that your application shows clearly how your skills and experience meet the criteria which are set out above. Please note that applications are only evaluated based on the information available on the application deadline.

The application must include:

  • ​A short and directed cover letter (in English or Norwegian) identifying:
    • Your motivation for a PhD study
    • Your understanding and thoughts of topics of the position
    • Why you are suited for the position.
  • CV including information relevant for the qualifications
  • Contact information for at least 2 reference persons
  • Certified copies of academic diplomas and transcripts (in English or Norwegian)

Academic works - published or unpublished - that you would like to be considered can also be added, if it is relevant for the topics of the position. Joint works will be considered if you have added an explanation of your own independent contribution to the work.

In the evaluation of which candidate is best qualified, emphasis will be placed on education, experience, personal suitability, and motivation, as documented according to the requirements for the application. 

Incomplete applications will not be considered.

NTNU is committed to following evaluation criteria for research quality according to The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment - DORA.

General information

Working at NTNU

A good work environment is characterized by diversity. We encourage qualified candidates to apply, regardless of their gender, functional capacity or cultural background. 

The city of Trondheim is a modern European city with a rich cultural scene. Trondheim is the innovation capital of Norway with a population of 200,000. The Norwegian welfare state, including healthcare, schools, kindergartens and overall equality, is probably the best of its kind in the world. Professional subsidized day-care for children is easily available. Furthermore, Trondheim offers great opportunities for education (including international schools) and possibilities to enjoy nature, culture and family life and has low crime rates and clean air quality.

As an employee at NTNU, you must at all times adhere to the changes that the development in the subject entails and the organizational changes that are adopted.

Information Act (Offentleglova), your name, age, position and municipality may be made public even if you have requested not to have your name entered on the list of applicants.

Please submit your application electronically via with your CV, diplomas and certificates. Applications submitted elsewhere will not be considered. Diploma Supplement is required to attach for European Master Diplomas outside Norway.

Questions about the position can be directed to Associate Professor Anastasios Lekkas

If you are invited for interview you must include certified copies of transcripts and reference letters. Please refer to the application number 2020/36634 when applying.

Application deadline: 25th of November, 2020.

NTNU - knowledge for a better world

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) creates knowledge for a better world and solutions that can change everyday life.

Department of Engineering Cybernetics (ITK)

Engineering cybernetics is the study of automatic control and monitoring of dynamic systems. We develop the technologies of tomorrow through close cooperation with industry and academia, both in Norway and internationally. The Department contributes to the digitalization, automation and robotization of society. The Department of Engineering Cybernetics is one of seven departments in the Faculty of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering.

Deadline 25th November 2020
Employer NTNU - Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Municipality Trondheim
Scope Fulltime
Duration Project
Place of service Trondheim

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