MPhil: High density point cloud processing for tree structural features extraction and species classification

Qualification: MPhil

Departments: School of Mathematics and Actuarial Science Geography

Application deadline: 30th September 2021

Start date: As soon as possible



Professor Ivan Tyukin (Mathematics)

Professor Kevin Tansey (Geography)

Project description:

Ref: LIH533 MPhil

The successful candidate will work on a research and development project with Bluesky International Ltd and produce a a thesis for the degree of MPhil.

The characterisation of tree structural features is important for ecological, climate change with respect to changes in above-ground biomass and environmental studies. The University of Leicester is interested in using high point density LiDAR data sets to understand how we can extract meaningful information about the properties of trees using deep learning methodologies within an AI framework.

Bluesky International Ltd, based in Leicestershire, is a leading supplier of aerial survey, GIS and location-based data and services and has offices in the UK, US, Ireland and India. The company is a key partner of the Manufacturing, Engineering, Technology and Earth Observation Research Centre (METEOR) of the University, based at Space Park Leicester. Amongst other services, the company delivers nationwide individual tree mapping to key clients, e.g. Ordnance Survey. In view of the “Flying Cities” campaign Bluesky has recently installed on its airplanes one of the most advanced LiDAR sensor suites on the market, capable of acquiring up to 100 points per square meter. 

Bluesky has identified a revenue opportunity in the provision of enriched maps of individual trees including tree structural measurements and species classification. However, the associated research for the development of automated algorithms for the processing of high point density LIDAR datasets requires expertise in data science that the company currently does not have across its staff.  

This R&D project will therefore experiment and develop approaches for the processing of the point cloud towards the extraction of tree structural features, with accuracy, speed and confidence.  The immediate outputs of this project would be an annotated software code, ideally open source, for tree localisation and structural feature extraction, leading to a synthetic technical documentation of the approach and wider considerations. Of further interest is the detection of objects within the structure of the tree that are temporary features and objects.

The selected candidate will be based at the School of Mathematics, and offered the opportunity to gain industry exposure by executing part of the activities at company premises and at Space Park Leicester.

  European Regional Development FundMidlands Engine



This Industrial MPhil is funded by the Leicester Innovation Hub (through European Development Fund monies) and the sponsoring organisation, Bluesky International Ltd.

The studentship provides:
Stipend of £1,166.67 for 12 months (total Stipend £14,000) 
Tuition Fees at UK/EU rates for 12 months.

*international applicants must be able to pay the difference between UK and International fees themselves. The difference in fees for 2021/2 entry will be £16,325.

Entry requirements

Entry requirements

Entry Requirements:


  • Bachelors Degree (with Honours) with at least a UK 2.I classification or overseas equivalent in mathematics, computer science, informatics, or relevant science subject.
  • Experience in computer programming or coding (python, C++, Matlab).
  • Evidence of previous report or thesis writing.
  • The University of Leicester English language requirements apply where applicable.


  • Masters Degree or Postgraduate Certificate/Diploma in a relevant subject
  • Familiarity with data mining, data analytics, machine learning and mathematical modelling techniques
  • Experience in working in a business environment
  • Experience of working in a team and independently
  • Experience of making presentations (communication in an oral format)
  • Experience with LiDAR data and/or LiDAR data processing systems

Skills and knowledge developed during the project:

  • Remote sensing of forests
  • Modelling and reconstruction of complex spatial structures, including tree structural parameters extraction, from under-sampled observations
  • Data segmentation
  • Data classification
  • Statistical learning theory
  • Machine learning

Informal enquiries

Informal enquiries

Project enquiries to:  

Prof Ivan Tyukin

Prof Kevin Tansey 

Application enquiries to: 

How to apply

How to apply

Please use the 'Apply button' at the bottom of the page and select January 2022 entry.  The start date is flexible and will be amended internally to suit at the point of offer.

In the funding section of the application please enter ERDF LIH553 Bluesky MPhil in the space provided

In the proposal section please provide the name of the supervisors and project title  (a proposal is not required).

With the application, please include:

  • CV
  • Personal statement explaining your interest in the project, your experience and why we should consider you
  • Degree Certificates and Transcripts of study already completed and if possible transcript to date of study currently being undertaken
  • Evidence of English language proficiency if applicable
  • In the reference section please enter the contact details of your two referees in the text boxes provided or upload letters of reference if already available.



The Leicester Innovation Hub is part-funded by European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

UK/EU or international* applicants can apply.  

*international applicants must be able to pay the difference between UK and International fees themselves. The difference in fees for 2021/2 entry will be £16,325.

The MPhil student must

  • have graduated within the last 3 years in a related discipline;
  • adhere to project confidentiality; at the start of the project
  • assign any arising IP from the project; 
  • base their MPhil degree thesis on the research outcomes of the project;
  • work closely with the SME company to undertake the research project; 
  • deliver monthly progress reports and a comprehensive project report to the University and sponsoring SME in addition to the MPhil thesis.