Challenging environments are all around us and require specialised approaches to understand and mitigate their effects, allowing people, devices and systems to operate safely and effectively.

This theme focuses on developing technologies that exploit discovery research from wireless communications and robotics to device physics and radiation detection. 

These are brought together to tackle specific aspects, from nuclear and underground environments, to supporting hard to reach users and devices be they underwater, in remote areas or situations best served by non-terrestrial networks, or areas which struggle through high densities of users.

We consider specific solutions to support ultra reliable and secure communications, how quantum communications and sensors will support the next generation of devices and systems, and techniques to deliver positioning outside of the range of conventional GNSS services.

Challenging environments also cannot support human life, so this theme considers how to best develop and exploit robotic and autonomous systems.


Development of technologies for:

  • Physical environments where current technology does not serve the needs of end users and systems, including underserved users and to serve the public good
  • Use cases where it is highly challenging to apply technology, due to extreme requirements.

Contact us

Professor David Grace
Theme leader
+44(0)1904 322396


  • a radio communications lab, with software radio devices and anechoic chamber
  • an aerial platform lab, which supports our activities relating to development and test of bespoke payloads (housed in the Institute for Safe Autonomy)
  • an underwater lab and tank facility, allowing using to develop and test state of the art underwater networks (housed in the Institute for Safe Autonomy)
  • Helikite tethered aerostat systems and test facility, allowing payloads of up to 17kg to be tested at low altitudes
  • an electromagnetics lab with reverberation chamber
  • a full six-sided acoustically anechoic chamber
  • an interactive multi-channel loudspeaker listening room
  • a standards-compliant listening space
  • three professional recording studios.

Our links with centres, institutes and professional bodies

  • Centre for High Altitude Platform Applications
  • Department of Chemistry
  • Department of Computer Science
  • Department of Environment and Geography
  • EPSRC Quantum Communications Hub
  • Institute for Safe Autonomy
  • Stockholm Environment Institute
  • Wolfson Atmospheric Science Institute
  • YESI
  • York Centre for Quantum Technologies
  • HAPS Alliance
  • Near Space Group
  • Cambridge Wireless
  • Dynamic Spectrum Alliance
  • Ofcom
  • International Telecommunications Union-Radio
  • 3GPP especially non-terrestrial networks
  • ETSI
  • EPSRC Quantum Communications Hub
  • University of Newcastle
  • Zhejiang University, China
  • Jozef Stefan Institute, Slovenia

Contact us

Professor David Grace
Theme leader
+44(0)1904 322396