School of Engineering

MSc Autonomous Systems

This programme will prepare you to cater global demand for autonomy in a wide variety of sectors, including IT, aerospace, automobiles, marine, robotics, banking and education by world leading professionals from both academia and industry. The programme will cover the specialist knowledge and skills necessary in autonomy such as artificial intelligence in decision-making, navigation, guidance, control and sensor fusion, machine learning, security, communication & networking and data management.

Key features

  • Unique programme to provide strong skills set both in marine and robotic autonomy.
  • Taught by world leading expert from members of the Autonomous Marine Systems (AMS) Research Group, the Centre for Robotics and Neural Systems (CRNS), the Maritime Cyber Threats research group and the Big Data Group.
  • Keep you updated with the latest development in artificial intelligence techniques and their application in autonomy. Our seminars series with speakers from industry and academia gives you the opportunity to keep ahead in this fast moving field.
  • Guest lectures from the key people in industries working in autonomy from Thales, Metalectrique Battery Systems, Dynautics (H-Scientific), Sonardyne, MSubs, Furgo, PML, NOC, Babcock International, ORE catapult, Teledyne e2v, Seiche Ltd etc to provide real contacts and share their experiences.
  • Provision to work on Industrial based autonomous systems projects which could be supported by their lab and test facilities.

Course details

  • Year 1
  • The MSc in Autonomous Systems builds on our research expertise and practical capability to develop innovative solutions for autonomous operations to devise a timely and relevant master’s level programme that is attractive to industry partners and potential students alike. The core of the new programme will be in the 'techno-scientific' knowledge domain of autonomous systems operating on land, marine or aerial environments and will be aimed at those who wish to develop the specialist knowledge and skills necessary to design and develop autonomous systems. This will be one of first multi-disciplinary programmes in the School of Engineering and will consist of 120 credits of taught modules and 60 credits dissertation project. Most of the external partners agreed to provide autonomous systems projects that would be ideal for MSc projects, which could be supported by their lab and test facilities.

    Core modules (100 credits):

    Introduction to Autonomous Systems (20 credits) – This module is created with the assistance of our industrial partners to introduce new skills and development in the autonomy sectors. Industrial guest speakers will be invited to provide details and to involve students in their ongoing works/ideas by selecting candidates for MSc dissertation projects. This module will be updated regularly to modify the contents to meet the demands of the current trends in this sector.

    Fundamentals of Robot Manipulators (20 credits) – This module provides a systematic understanding of the theory and implementation of robot manipulators, as used in industry and other advanced applications and will cover intelligent control system techniques, sensors and actuators, and modelling.

    Engineering Design Research Methods and Professional Development (20 credits) - You will use a methodical approach to design research (DRM) that helps identify and define projects that are practically realistic and academically worthwhile. You will use DRM to plan your research project and select ethically suitable quantitative and qualitative research methods. Your progression towards professional registration will be appraised and plans made for continuous professional development (CPD).

    Modelling and Analytics for Data Science (20 credits) - This module gives students an understanding of modelling and analytics techniques for data science. It supplies modern data modelling tool boxes for making strategic decisions in a broad range of Business related practical situations. It offers a hands-on introduction to Bayesian inference and machine learning. It provides additional practice in making professional presentations.

    Data Processing, Simulation and Optimisation of Engineering Systems (20 credits) - This module will develop student knowledge and understanding of data processing techniques and will explore the benefits of these in engineering practice. Further study of simulation and optimisation techniques for engineering systems will provide the tools to enable the students to develop dynamic simulation of real engineering problems, including behaviour prediction and performance optimisation using MATLAB/Simulink.

    Engineering Design Dissertation (60 credits) - This module allows students to demonstrate the practical skills and knowledge of research methods to plan and implement high quality research. Students will carry out a substantial research investigation on a topic of their choice and report upon the aims, methodology, data analysis, interpretation, synthesis, and conclusions through a high quality, scholarly and professional write-up of the project.

    Optional modules (20 credit elective):

    Secure Systems Architectures and Mechanisms (20 credits) - System security addresses protection mechanisms appropriate to various IT systems and architectures, focusing upon technologies that are appropriate regardless of whether a system is implemented as part of a network. These mechanisms and cryptographic protocols help to provide confidentiality, integrity of data as well as authentication and authorisation.

    Advanced Naval Architecture (20 credits) - On completing this module, students will have a comprehensive knowledge of mathematical models associated with marine hydrodynamics and marine structures. The students will be able to understand their limitations, and to interpret data from them. Topics covered will include Vessel Manoeuvring, Marine structural response and analysis of irregular seaways. 

    Advanced Engineering Design Practice (20 credits) - This module will develop your knowledge of design science - the knowledge base of engineering design that includes: design thinking; design methodologies; theories of technical systems; and the strategies, tactics, and tools of contemporary engineering design practice. You will also develop proficiency in the use of industrial standard CAD tools through a team based design task.

Entry requirements

We expect students to have achieved at least a 2.2 or equivalent in their undergraduate degree in engineering, mathematics, robotics, marine, computing and physical science related subjects.

Applicants with overseas qualifications can check their comparability with the UK equivalent through NARIC, which provides an advisory service.

English language requirements

If your first language is not English then evidence of English proficiency is required. The level of proficiency that is required can vary with the type of programme for which you are applying. For further advice on the appropriateness of overseas qualification and proficiency in the use of English, please contact our International Office.

The minimum IELTS score for acceptable English proficiency for entry is normally 6.5 with scores of 5.5 in all elements.

Fees, costs and funding

EU applicants should refer to our dedicated Brexit webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

New Student 2018 2019
Home/EU N/A £9,500
International N/A £14,400
Part time (Home/EU) N/A £550
Full time fees shown are per annum. Part time fees shown are per 10 credits. Please note that fees are reviewed on an annual basis. Fees and the conditions that apply to them shown in the prospectus are correct at the time of going to print. Fees shown on the web are the most up to date but are still subject to change in exceptional circumstances.

Postgraduate scholarships for international students

We offer several scholarships for international students who wish to study postgraduate taught (PGT) degree programmes.

Find out about the postgraduate scholarships available to you as an international student

Alumnus loyalty reward for postgraduate study

From September 2018, the University applies a discretionary alumni reward where alumnus meet certain criteria on particular postgraduate taught courses.

  • a 20 per cent discount on home/EU tuition fees
  • or a £2,000 discount on international tuition fees.

PGCE programmes, Master of Architecture, MChem, MEng, MGeol, MPsych, MSci, ResM and postgraduate research degrees are not included in this reward.

For further details, and contact information, please review our alumni discount policy.

How to apply

When to apply

Most of our taught programmes begin in September, with some January starts also available. Applications can usually be made throughout the year, and are considered until programmes are full. 

Before you apply

Familiarise yourself with the information required to complete your application form. You will usually be required to supply:
  • evidence of qualifications (degree certificates or transcripts), with translations if not in English, to show that you meet, or expect to meet the entry requirements
  • evidence of English language proficiency, if English is not your first language
  • a personal statement of approximately 250-400 words about the reasons for your interest in the course and outlining the nature of previous and current related experience. You can write this into the online application form, or include it as a separate document
  • your curriculum vitae or résumé, including details of relevant professional/voluntary experience, professional registration/s and visa status for overseas workers
  • proof of sponsorship, if applicable.
If you require further information take a look at our application guidance.

Disability services

If you have a disability and would like further information about the support provided by University of Plymouth, please visit our Disability Services website. 

International students

Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office via our how to apply webpage or email

Submitting an application

Once you are happy that you have all of the information required you can apply using our online postgraduate application form (the blue 'Apply now' icon on this page).

What happens after I apply?

You will normally receive a decision on your application within four weeks of us receiving your application. You may be asked to provide additional information; two academic/professional references, confirming your suitability for the course; or to take part in an interview (which in the case of overseas students may be by telephone or video conference) and you will be sent a decision by letter or email.

We aim to make the application procedure as simple and efficient as possible. Our Admissions and Course Enquiries team is on hand to offer help and can put you in touch with the appropriate faculty if you wish to discuss any programme in detail.

If you would like any further information please contact the Admissions and Course Enquiries team:

Telephone: +44 (0)1752 585858

Admissions policy

More information and advice for applicants can be referenced by downloading our Student Admissions Policy Prospective students are advised to read the policy before making an application to the University.

New book on marine autonomous vehicles

Associate Professor (Reader) in Intelligent Autonomous Control Systems Dr Sanjay Sharma has edited Navigation and Control of Autonomous Marine Vehicles, recently published by The Institution of Engineering and Technology. The book covers the current state of research in navigation, modelling and control of marine autonomous vehicles, and is aimed at researchers, academics and postgraduate students interested in autonomous marine vessels, robotics, and electrical and automobile engineering.

More information on the book

Dr Sanjay Sharma

Related research groups

Research - Centre for Robotics and Neural Systems (CRNS)

The centre builds on world-leading excellence in computer science, robotics and neural systems research. Staff at the centre coordinate large projects and collaborate with major international centres in cognitive robotics and computational neuroscience.

Centre for Robotics and Neural Systems (CRNS)

The Maritime Cyber Threats Research Group

The group has been formed to bring together leading-edge multidisciplinary research and practical expertise in the core areas of cyber-security and maritime operations together with psychology researchers, and maritime law and policy experts

For more about the group, visit their dedicated web page

Big Data group

Our group comprises people from Plymouth University working in several subject disciplines including bioinformatics, computer science, control systems engineering, mathematics, statistics, and physics.

Our principle aim is to develop novel research methodology in BIG DATA to solve problems of international importance in biomedicine, business, engineering, environmental monitoring, epidemiology, finance, medical imaging, multimedia, public health, social science and visualisation, taking full account of cyber security and ethics. Our impact focused research capitalises on the skills and expertise of group members and is built around a number of strategic themes.