Skip to the content

This internet browser is outdated and does not support all features of this site. Please switch or upgrade to a different browser to display this site properly.


Scholarship details

2024 RTP round - (Machine ) Learning more about meteorites from a Drone

Status: Closed

Applications open: 7/07/2023
Applications close: 25/08/2023

View printable version [.pdf]

About this scholarship

The Desert Fireball Network (DFN), operated by Curtin consists of a large array of astronomical cameras in the outback to recover fresh meteorites with orbits, by observing incoming meteors, and then searching for the fallen rock. Searching for meteorite falls in the remote outback is a costly activity, traditionally done with teams of people camped on site, searching the area on foot. Recently SSTC has developed a drone-based approach, using machine learning to identify meteorites in aerial imagery, with great success, and recovered multiple meteorites using a UAV. This project will build on this success, by extending the drone approach to new terrains and new meteorites, and investigating further applications of this technology. 

This project will focus enhancing its capability and the system's machine learning abilities to support new terrains and new detection techniques by developing and deploying the drone in the field, and as needed working to recover fresh meteorites from the DFN. There will also be the opportunity for the applicant to investigate applied uses of this aerial anomaly-detection technology, such as search and rescue or environmental monitoring. 

This technology is new, and one objective is to democratise the tools, such that scientists and collaborators can also use it without specialist knowledge. The Desert Fireball Network is a highly active research environment, with multiple meteorites under investigation and study, and the drone based searching is an integral part of the team. 

This project will contribute to Desert Fireball Network, the largest single dataset of incoming asteroidal material in the world. This unique facility is managed here at Curtin with the support of the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre. The DFN is one of the world leaders in the recovery of fresh meteorites with orbits, that are a highly valuable scientific resource. 

The Space Science & Technology Centre (SSTC) is the largest planetary science group in the southern hemisphere comprising ~40 researchers with expertise across the planetary sciences, including planetary geology, fireball physics, impact crater analysis and statistics, and Solar System formation. The candidate will be exposed to a wide range of support from all personnel at levels, including academic and professional support, and will enjoy collegiate support from their PhD peers. 

This project may provide an internship opportunity. Candidates will have the opportunity during their thesis to apply for competitive internship projects with NASA, and other internship opportunities through DFN collaborators, including the other academic institutions, the WA museum, industrial partners and the Department of Defence. 

  • Future Students
  • Faculty of Science & Engineering
    • Engineering courses
  • Higher Degree by Research
  • Australian Citizen
  • Australian Permanent Resident
  • New Zealand Citizen
  • Permanent Humanitarian Visa
  • Merit Based

The annual scholarship package (stipend and tuition fees) is approx. $60,000 - $70,000 p.a.

Successful HDR applicants for admission will receive a 100% fee offset for up to 4 years, stipend scholarships at the 2023 RTP rate valued at $32,250 p.a. for up to a maximum of 3 years, with a possible 6-month completion scholarship. Applicants are determined via a competitive selection process and will be notified of the scholarship outcome in November 2023. 

For detailed information, visit: Research Training Program (RTP) Scholarships | Curtin University, Perth, Australia.

Scholarship Details


All applicable HDR courses

A strong student with a background in STEM, or a demonstrated interest in Machine Learning. Earth Sciences familiarity is helpful but not essential. The applicant will be working within the Desert Fireball Network team, and there will be some fieldwork involved, primarily in the Australian outback, to visit meteorite fall areas and carry out searching, and to support the existing camera network. Drone flight training or qualifications are not required, as training for this will form part of the learning activities. 

Application process

This project has identified a preferred candidate and is no longer available.  Please review remaining scholarships projects.

Enrolment Requirements

Eligible to enrol in a Higher Degree by Research Course at Curtin University by March 2024.

Recipients must complete their milestone 1 within 6 months of enrolment and remain enrolled on a full-time basis for the duration of the scholarship.


The Project lead has identified a preferred candidate and is no longer accepting applications. Please click here to review remaining scholarships projects.

Scholarships Email Alert