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Professor in the Department of Computer Science+44 (0) 191 33 42396
Professor in the Department of Engineering
Fellow of the Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing+44 (0) 191 33 42396


Toby Breckon is a Professor in the Department of Engineering and Department of Computer Science at Durham University and an academic tutor at St. Chads College.

Within the department(s), he leads research in computer vision, image processing and robotic sensing, with a strong emphasis on AI-based machine learning and pattern recognition techniques, in addition to research-led teaching within the undergraduate Engineering and Computer Science programmes.


Prof. Breckon's current research spans a breadth of computer vision, image processing and robotic sensing application domains including automotive sensing, X-ray security image understanding, automated visual surveillance and robotic sensing.

Within the automotive sector, his team work with a number of major vehicle manufacturers on future automotive sensing solutions having originally commenced work in this area in the early days of intelligent driver assistance systems (2007-2023+). The team's work on real-time visual saliency was filed as a patent (2013) and Prof. Breckon acted as a scientific advisor to tech startup Machines With Vision on aspects of autonomous vehicle sensing (2019-2023).

Within aviation security, his research work on X-ray image understanding pioneered the use of automated prohibited item detection algorithms within the sector and his team are credited with designing the first complete solution for threat image projection (TIP) within 3D CT security scan imagery (E&T Innovation Awards 2020, Highly Commended, Dynamites Technology Awards 2021, Innovator of the Year - Highly Commended). Their 3D TIP approach is now used globally by several major security scanner manufacturers, in numerous major international airports, and helps to secure over 500+ million passenger journeys per annum across five continents (2020).

The work of his team on anomaly detection is used by COSMONiO in their NOUS product. COSMONiO, founded by former members of his research team in 2012, was acquired by Intel in 2020.

As of 2014, his team were selected as a research partner in the UK SAPIENT programme, supplying a fully operational research demonstrator, to demonstrate 'the art of the possible' in inter-operable AI for multi-sensor wide area surveillance. As of 2023, SAPIENT is a British Standard (BSI Flex 355) and the UK MoD inter-operabilty standard for counter-UAS (uncrewed air system) technology.

In collaboration with Blue Bear Systems, work from his team directly supported the development of intelligent payloads for "the largest collaborative, military focused evaluation of swarming uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAV) in the UK" (2021). Furthermore, he has acted as a technical consultant on a wide range of industry-led projects, supporting the development of several commercial products (2013- 2023), and as an expert technical witness in US Federal Court (2021).

The broader international reach of his research is further chronicled in three research impact case studies submitted as part of the UK National Research Evaluation Framework (REF) spanning work on X-ray security imaging, automotive sensing and wide-area visual surveillance (2020/21) and he is the recipient of the Durham University Award for Excellence in Knowledge Transfer in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the public benefit of research (2022).

In the early part of his research career, he led the technical development of real-time object detection for the Stellar Team's SATURN multi-platform robot system in the MoD Grand Challenge, going on to win the R.J. Mitchell Trophy (UK MoD Grand Challenge winners, 2008), the Finmeccanica Group Innovation Award (2009) and an IET Award for Innovation (Team Category, 2009).

His research work is recognised by the Royal Photographic Society Selwyn Award (2011) for a significant early career contribution to imaging science.


Before joining Durham in 2013, he held faculty positions at the School of Engineering, Cranfield University, the UK's only postgraduate-only university, and the School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh. Prior to this he was a mobile robotics research engineer with the UK MoD (DERA) and latterly QinetiQ in addition to prior positions with the schools inspectorate OFSTED, the Scottish Language Dictionaries organisation and (dot-com) software house Orbital Software.

He has held visiting faculty positions at ESTIA ( Ecole Supérieure des Technologies Industrielles Avancées), South-West France, Northwestern Polytechnical University (Xi'an, China), Waseda University (Kitakyushu, Japan) and Shanghai Jiao Tong University (Shanghai, China).

He holds a PhD in Informatics (Artificial Intelligence - Computer Vision) from the University of Edinburgh and studied Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science as an undergraduate (B.Sc. (Hons.) (Edin.)).

Service and Outreach

Prof. Breckon is a consultant scientific advisor to the UK Dept of Transport, as a member of the DfT College of Experts (2023+), and has previously served as a scientific advisor to H.M. Cabinet Office (Cyber Security Expert Group, 2015-2020) and previously to H.M. Government Office for Science (2016/17)..

At Durham, Prof. Breckon led applied Computer Science research, as Head of Innovative Computing within the School of Engineering and Computing Science (2014-2018) and now leads research spanning the visual computing theme as Head of VIViD (Vision, Imaging and Visualisation in Durham, 2021-present) in the Department of Computer Science. From 2020, he serves as a member of the Ethics Advisory Committee bringing broad experience in the application of ethics approval and practice within Artificial Intelligence and related areas.

From 2023, he is the option leader for the MSc specialist option in Computer Vision and Robotics available as part of the MSc in Scientific Computing and Data Analysis (MISCADA) at Durham

He is a member of the executive committee of the BMVA (British Machine Vision Association) acting as Treasurer for financial oversight of the association's annual computer vision conferences (BMVC, MIUA), summer school and other activities (2010-present).

Outside of the university, he acts as a STEMNET Science & Engineering Ambassador promoting awareness of intelligent sensing, its underpinning technology and related societal impact.

Research interests

  • autonomous sensing
  • computer vision
  • image processing
  • machine learning
  • robotic sensing


Authored book

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Supervision students