FEIT Research Project Database

Smart offshore site investigation using free-fall penetrometers

Project Leader: Shiaohuey Chow
Staff: Negin Yousefpour, Mark Cassidy
Primary Contact: Shiaohuey Chow (shiaohuey.chow@unimelb.edu.au)
Keywords: geotechnical engineering; machine learning; offshore site investigation; physical modelling; probabilistic modelling
Disciplines: Infrastructure Engineering


 Dr Negin Yousefpour, Prof Mark CassidyDr Shiaohuey Chow


Geotechnical site investigation (SI) is a crucial component of any offshore infrastructure development. This is because all seabeds are different and site-specific soil properties (eg, sediment type and strength) are required for design. Due to extremely harsh operating conditions in the ocean, an offshore SI campaign consumes significant time and cost due to the requirement of a large survey vessel and heavy seabed frame to deploy conventional tools such as cone penetrometers.

A new generation SI tool, Free-fall penetrometers (FFPs), has the potential to supplement conventional tools by generating more spatially resolute near-surface data. FFPs are simply dropped overboard into the seabed from much smaller vessels.The portable and instrumented FFPs typically come in diameters of 100 to 200 mm, lengths of 1 to 6 m, mass of 10 to 500 kg and can achieve impact velocities of up to 20 m/s and penetration depths of up to 20 m.

This project aims to enable ‘smart’ offshore site investigation using FFPs through geoprobabilistic and experimental modelling.

The project will develop a probabilistic FFP interpretation model to statistically derive soil strength from FFP tests. Using the probabilistic model, a smart offshore SI framework will then be established to predict soil parameters at unsampled locations by integrating surrounding FFP and existing SI data usingmachine learning techniques. The probabilistic FFP interpretation model and smart SI framework will be validated using state-of-the-art centrifuge modelling. The project involves travel opportunity where the centrifuge testing will be conducted at the National Geotechnical Centrifuge Facilities, the University of Western Australia, Perth.


  • Master of Engineering (Geotechnical or Civil); or closely related discipline
  • Meet all relevant criteria to gain entry to the University of Melbourne PhD program


  • High-quality journal publications.
  • Excellent communication skills in both spoken and written English.

To submit your interest, please email your:

  • Resume
  • Full academic transcripts
  • Details of any published papers
  • English test, eg, IELTS (if applicable)

to Shiaohuey Chow at shiaohuey.chow@unimelb.edu.au