Mr Phil Atkins CEng, BSc, MPhil, FIOA, AFRIN, MIET

Mr Phil Atkins

Department of Electronic, Electrical and Systems Engineering
Senior Lecturer

Contact details

School of Electronic, Electrical and Systems Engineering
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Phil Atkins, Senior Lecturer, Electronic, Electrical & Systems Engineering, has 30 years’ experience of underwater sensors and their associated signal processing, including active and passive sonar systems, navigation systems, underwater communication systems and imaging/mapping technologies.

He has been the Principle Investigator of > 25 research contracts, mostly UK Government-funded, his research includes underwater position fixing, remote imaging within hazardous materials, remotely measuring capillary waves on the surface of the ocean, underwater bispectral and cyclo-stationary direction finding, subsurface covert communication and imaging systems, mapping in the surf zone, remote marine creature classification, incoherent synthetic aperture systems and the location of pin-hole leaks in landfill liner membranes.

He has been a member of the Technical Working Group for UK signature ranging capabilities, and an independent technical assessor for large Government procurement activities. He is a Co-Investigator of the Mapping the Underworld 1 and 2 projects, and currently has responsibility for investigating the underwater position fixing, networking and communication aspects of the Royal Navy mine hunter and oceanographic vessel replacement programme.


Lecturer in Electronics and Electrical Engineering:
• Fellow of the Institute of Acoustics
• Associate Fellow of the Royal Institute of Navigation
• Member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology
• Chartered Engineer
• MPhil 1981
• BSc (Hons) in Electronic and Electrical Engineering 1978


Phil Atkins grew up surrounded by an environment of professional engineering and family businesses. The expectation was that a career would develop in the manufacturing engineering management field. However, the delights of a varied academic career proved to be too seductive and he has remained in academia.

An earlier career in the materials testing field led to a general interest in computer control of machinery, sensors, power systems and electromechanical design. This later developed into the broad field of underwater sensing, navigation, acoustics and sonar signal processing. Often, these systems also required knowledge of RF communication systems in the HF and VHF bands (to 200 MHz) – building on an earlier interest in HF radar systems.

Phil continues to receive research contracts in the field of ‘hard-to-sense’ artefacts in both underwater and underground domains. Recent programmes have included sonar system design, underwater communications and network protocols as well as underground asset location systems.


Teaching Programmes
• First year digital systems
• Second year digital systems and embedded systems
• Third year project management.
• MSc advanced digital design
• Post-experience underwater acoustics and sonar signal processing.

Postgraduate supervision

Current postgraduate supervision includes the following areas:


  • Sonar Systems: target phase measurement and automatic classification of underwater objects. 
  • Sonar Systems: automatic normalisation of active sonar system receive signals in long-range, highly-reverberant environments.
  • Underground Detection: the use of streaming potentials for underground asset location and condition monitoring.
  • Micro-gravity gradient surveying methods (on fully funded PhD position available for a UK or European student available).


Acoustics, sonar system design and underground asset detection.

Over the next few years work will continue in the following areas:

Other activities

  • Membership representative for the IET. 
  • University of Birmingham representative on the Osprey Underwater Sensing Consortium 
  • Member of the international workshop on measurement standards for underwater noise. 
  • Consultant to a UK manufacturer of industrial measurement sensors. 
  • Coordinator for the Portland Underwater Acoustics and Sonar Signal Processing Course.
  • Association of Authorised Land Surveyors, Malaysia - Course lecturer on Underground Utility Mapping. 


T. Hao, D.N. Chapman, G. Curioni, K.Y. Foo, P.R. Atkins and C.D.F. Rogers, "Flangeless open-ended coaxial probes with curved surfaces," IEEE International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium 2011 (Japan)

P. Wang, K. F. Goddard, P. L. Lewin, S. Swingler, P. Atkins and K. Y. Foo. “Magnetic Field Measurement to Detect and Locate Underground Power Cable” ICPTT, Beijing, Oct 2011.

Royal, A.C.D., Atkins P.R., Brennan, M.J., Chapman, D.N., Chen, H., Cohn, A.G., Foo, K.Y., Goddard, K., Hayes, R., Hao, T., Lewin, P.L., Metje, N.,Muggleton, J.M., Naji, A.,Orlando, G., Pennock, S.R., Redfern, M.A., Saul, A.J., Swingler, S.G., Wang, P. and Rogers C.D.F. "Site Assessment of Multiple Sensor Approaches for Buried Utility Detection," Noninvasive Sensing Techniques and Geophysical Methods for Cultural Heritage and Civil Infrastructures Monitoring, International Journal of Geophysics.

K.Y. Foo, T. Hao, G. Curioni, D.N. Chapman, N. Metje, and P.R. Atkins. A knowledge-based system for evaluating the impact of soil properties on the performance of utility location technologies: design and case-study. ICPTT, Beijing, Oct 2011.

A. Madun, I. Jefferson, K.Y. Foo, P.R. Atkins, D.N. Chapman and M. Culshaw, “A robust methodology of multiple ground improvement columns evaluation using surface wave analysis,” Canadian Geotechnical Journal

T. Hao, K.Y. Foo, G. Curioni, D.N. Chapman, P.R. Atkins and C.D.F. Rogers “Measurement of dielectric properties of soils using an open-ended coaxial probe and time domain reflectometry probe” Journal of Applied Geophysics

A. Islas-Cital, P.R. Atkins and K.Y. Foo, “Standard Target Calibration of Broadband Active Sonar Systems in a Laboratory Tank” Proc. IEEE Sydney OCEANS 2010, May 2010, pp. 1-10, DOI:10.1109/OCEANSSYD.2010.5603977

Z. You, J. Cross, K.Y. Foo, P.R. Atkins, A.M. Thomas, G. Curioni, and A. Islas- Cital, “Disposable Stepped-frequency GPR and Soil Measurement Devices” The 13thInt. Conf. on Ground Penetrating Radar (IEEE), pp. 1–5, June 2010. Print ISBN: 978-1-4244-4604-9 DOI : 10.1109/ICGPR.2010.5550091

Royal, A.C.D., Rogers C.D.F, Atkins P.R., Brennan, M.J., Chapman, D.N., Cohn, A.G., Curioni, G., Foo, K. Y, Goddard, K., Lewin, P.L., Metje, N., Muggleton, J.M., Naji, A., Pennock, S.R., Redfern, M.A., Saul, A.J., Swingler, S.G. and Wang, P., “Mapping the underworld Phase II – Latest Developments” International No-Dig 2010, 28th Inte1rnational Conference and Exhibition, Singapore, Nov 2010.

G. Curioni, D.N. Chapman, N. Metje, C.D.F. Rogers, T. Hao, A.M. Thomas, K.Y. Foo and P.R. Atkins, “Investigation of field variation of soil water content in order to facilitate shallow geophysical surveys” Proc. 11th BGA Young Geotechnica Engineers’ Symposium, July 2010, pp. 39–40.

A. Madun, I. Jefferson, K.Y. Foo, P.R. Atkins, D.N. Chapman and M. Culshaw, “Robust weighted-mean approach for the evaluation of ground improvement columns using surface wave analysis,” Proc. Near Surface 2010, Sept 2010, pp. 1–5.

J.D. Cross, K.Y. Foo, T. Hao, P.R. Atkins, “Disposable stepped frequency GPR and soil measurement devices,” IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing.

A. Islas-Cital, P.R. Atkins, K.Y. Foo, R. Pico, "Phase calibration of sonar systems using standard-targets and dual-frequency ransmission pulses" Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.

A.M. Thomas, K.Y. Foo, P.R. Atkins, D.N. Chapman, C.D.F. Rogers, “Modelling of Coaxial Cell Measurement: A Simplified Approach”, International Journal of Geotechnical Engineering

K. Y. Foo, P. R. Atkins, A. M. Thomas and C. D.F. Rogers, “Capacitive-coupled electric-field sensing for urban sub-surface mapping: motivations and practical challenges” Proc. 1st Int. Conf. on Frontiers in Shallow Subsurface Technology, pp. 157-160. Jan 2010.

A. M. Thomas, G. Curioni, K. Y. Foo, P. R. Atkins, C. D. F. Rogers and D. N. Chapman, “Improving TDR for use with fine-grained soils,” Proc. 1st Int. Conf. on Frontiers in Shallow Subsurface Technology, pp. 169-172. Jan 2010.

G. Curioni, D.N. Chapman, N. Metje, C.D.F. Rogers, A.M. Thomas, K.Y. Foo, and P.R. Atkins “Seasonal Variation in Soil Water,” The 3rd Int. Symposium on Soil Water Measurement Using Capacitance, Impedance and TDT, April, 2010

Christopher D.F. Rogers, David N. Chapman, Alexander Royal, Nicole Metje, Philip R. Atkins and Kae Y. Foo, “Mapping the Underworld – Mapping Sub-Surface Streetscapes,” No-Dig Road Show Seminars 2009, Bristol, U.K.

Kae Y. Foo and Philip R. Atkins, “A relative-localization algorithm using incomplete pairwise distance measurements for underwater applications,” EURASIP Journal on Advances in Signal Processing, vol. 2010. doi:10.1155/2010/930327

A. Madun, I. Jefferson, D.N. Chapman, M. Culshaw, K.Y. Foo, and P.R. Atkins, “Evaluation of the multi-channel surface wave analysis approach for the monitoring of multiple soil-stiffening columns,” Nearsurface Geophysics, vol. 8, no. 6, pp. 611-621, Dec 2010. doi: 10.3997/1873-0604.2010054

K.Y. Foo, P.R. Atkins, T. Collins, S.A. Pointer and C.P.Tiltman, "Sea trials of an underwater, ad hoc, acoustic network with stationary assets," IET Journal of Radar, Sonar and Navigation, Volume 4: Issue:1 2-16 February 2010

A. M. Thomas, D. N. Chapman, C. D. F. Rogers, N. Metje, P. R. Atkins, H. M. Lim. 2008. Broadband Apparent Permittivity Measurement in Dispersive Soils Using Quarter-Wavelength Analysis. SSSAJ: Volume 72: Number 5 1401-1409. September–October 2008

KY Foo, PR Atkins, T Collins. 2008. Results from trials of a planar, incoherent, synthetic aperture sonar for underwater imaging, IET Radar, Sonar & Navigation, 2, 3, 214-226. ISSN: 1751-8784. DOI: 10.1049/iet-rsn:20060036

PR Atkins, T Collins, NJ Foote. 2007. Transmit-Signal Design and Processing Strategies for Sonar Target Phase Measurement, IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Signal Processing, 1, 1, 91-104. ISSN: 1932-4553 DOI: 10.1109/JSTSP.2007.897051

N Metje, PR Atkins, MJ Brennan, DN Chapman, HM Lim, J Matchell, JM Muggleton, S Pennock, J Ratcliffe, M Redfern, CDF Rogers, AJ Saul, Q Shan, S Swingler, AM Thomas. 2007. Mapping the underworld - State-of-the-art-review, Tunnelling and underground space technology, 22, 5-6, doi10.1016, 568-586. ISSN: 0886-7798. DOI: 10.1016/j.tust.2007.04.002

KG Foote, DTI Francis, PR Atkins. 2007. Calibration Sphere for Low-frequency Parametric Sonars, Journal of Acoustical Society of America, 121, 3, 1482-1490. ISSN: 0001-4966. DOI: 10.1121/1.2434244

JJ Williams, N Metje, LE Coates, PR Atkins. 2007. Sand Suspension by Vortex Pairing, Geophysical Research Letters, 34, 15, L15603. ISSN: 0094-8276. DOI: 10.1029/2007GL030761

KY Foo, PR Atkins, T Collins. 2004. Sea Trials of Bi-Static, Time-Domain, Incoherent Synthetic Aperture Sonar, Electronic Letters, 40, 5, 341-343. ISSN: 0013-5194. DOI: 10.1049/el:20040228

MR Miller, PR Atkins, OF Pedersen. 2003. Inadequate peak expiratoryflow meter characteristics detected by a computerised explosive decompression device, THORAX, 58, 2003, 411 - 416. ISSN: 09309225. DOI: 10.1136/thorax.58.5.411

T Collins, PR Atkins. 2001. Error-Tolerant SPIHT Image Compression, IEE Proceedings - Vision, Image and Signal Processing, 148, 3, 182-186. ISSN: 1350-245X. DOI: 10.1049/ip-vis:20010376

PR Atkins, A Islas Cital, KG Foote. 2008. Sonar Target-Phase Measurement and Effects of Transducer-Matching, Acoustics 08, Paris, 789-794.

PR Atkins, DTI Francis, KG Foote. 2008. Calibration of Broadband Sonar Systems Using Multiple Standard Targets, Acoustics 08, Paris, 261-266.

KY Foo, PR Atkins, SA Pointer, CP Tiltman. 2008. Ad Hoc Time Synchronisation in a Mulitple Hop Underwater Network, Proceedings of the Institute of Acoustics, Spring Conference 2008, 30, 2, 674-683. ISSN: 1478-6095.

KY Foo, PR Atkins, SA Pointer, CP Tiltman. 2008. Robust Time-Division Channel-Access Approach for an Ad Hoc Underwater Networks, Proceedings of ECUA 2008, Paris, 08, 5350-5354.

PR Atkins, DTI Francis, KG Foote. 2007. Broadband Ultasonic Target Strengths of Hollow Ceramic Flotation Spheres, IEEE Oceans 07, 070131, 066, 1-4. ISSN: 142440635.

PR Atkins, KG Foote, T Collins. 2007. Practical Implications of Sonar Target-Phase Measurement Classifiers, Proceedings of the Institute of Acoustics: International Conference on Detection & Classification of Underwater Targets, 29, 6.

DTI Francis, KG Foote, PR Atkins. 2007. Robustness of target strength of an immersed, hollow ceramic flotation sphere of constant shell thickness, MTS/IEEE Oceans 2007, Vancouver, 070531.

DTI Francis, KG Foote, PR Atkins. 2007. Robustness of target strength of an immersed, hollow, ceramic flotation sphere of non-constant shell thickness, MTS/IEEE OCEANS 2007, Vancouver, 070531.

PR Atkins. 2006. SONAR - What Next? Workshop on the Transmission of Chaotic Signals: Invited Contribution, University of Bristol, 1-3 August 2006,

HM Lim, PR Atkins. 2006. A Proposal for Pipe Detection Using a Low Frequency Electric Field (In Proceedings of Railway Foundatio: Rail Found 06, 84-93, ISBN: 0704426005).

AM Thomas, HM Lim, N Metje, CDF Rogers, DN Chapman, PR Atkins. 2006. The complexity of GPR Data interpretation in Railway Foundation Surveys (In Proceedings of Rail Found 06 - Proceedings of 1st International Conferrence on Railway Foundations, Birmingham, UK, 48-61).

PR Atkins, AJ Fenwick. 2005. Practicalities of Implementing a Bistatic Link Using Chaotic Signals, SIAM Conference on Applications of Dynamical Systems, SIAM, Snowbird USA, May 22-26 2005.

RF King, DH Griffiths, PR Atkins. 2005. Model Experiments Using AC for the Electrical Detection of Leaks in Landfill Liners (In Proceedings of the Near Surface 2005 - 11th European Meeting of Environmental and Engineering Geophysics, Z-99). Palermo, Italy, 5-8 September 2005).

KG Foote, PR Atkins, DTI Francis, T Knutsen. 2005. Measuring Echo Spectra Over a Wide Bandwidth, Proceedings of the International Conference on Underwater Measurements: Technologies & Results, Heraklion, Crete, Greece, 28 June - 1 July 2005, 501-508.

PR Atkins, AJ Fenwick. 2004. Chaotic Signals in a Multipath Channel, Proceedings of the Institute of Acoustics and Sonar Signal Processing, Institute of Acoustics, St Albans, UK, 26, Pt 5. ISSN: 14786095.

KY Foo, PR Atkins, T Collins, C Morley, J Davies. 2004. A Routing and Chanel-Access Approach for an Ad Hoc Underwater Acoustic Network, Oceans 04 Maritime Technology Society/ IEEE Techno - Ocean 04, 2, 789-795.

KY Foo, PR Atkins, T Collins, C Morley, J Davies. 2004. A routing and channel-acces approach for an ad hoc underwater acoustic network (In OCEANS'04 MTS/IEEE TECHNO-OCEAN '04, 2, 9-12 Nov 2004, 789-795).

JMT Simao, DK Aspinwall, RC Dewes, PR Atkins. 2003. Electrical discharge texturing/alloying of mill work rolls when using PM tool electrodes (In Proceedings of the Rolls 2003 Conference, Birmingham, UK, CD-ROM, Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOMMM), 9-11 April.

KY Foo, PR Atkins, T Collins. 2003. Robust Underwater Imaging with Fast Broadband Incoherent Synthetic Aperture Sonar (In ICASSP 2003, 5, IEEE, USA, V17-V20). ISSN: 1520-6149.

K.Y.Foo, P.R.Atkins, and T.Collins, "Broadband incoherent synthetic aperture sonar," Proceedings of the WSEAS International Conference on Acoustic, Music and Speech, ID: 452-123, Dec 2002.

JMT Simao, DK Aspinwall, RC Dewes, PR Atkins. 2002. Electrical discharge surface alloying of rolls, moulds and dies (In Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Behaviour of Materials in Machining, Chester, UK/2002, 283-291, ISBN: 1861251564).

PR Atkins, C Bongiovanni, DTI Francis, KG Foote, T Knutsen, PK Eriksen, MT Larsen, T Mortensen. 2001. Simple, Nonoptimal, Real-time Classifiers for Euphausiid and Copepod Numerical Density Estimation, The Journal of the Acoustic Society of America, Chicago, 4-8June 2001, 109, 5, Part 2 of 2, 2286. ISSN: 0001-4966.

T Collins, PR Atkins, C Bongiovanni, JJ Davies, SM Dunn, SA Pointer. 2001. Using Continuous Additive Training Sequences for High Rate, Doppler Tolerant Communicationsq, The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, Chicago, 4-8 June 2001, 109, 5, Part 2 of 2, 2477. ISSN: 0001-4966.

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