Developers of GPS Awarded the 2003 Draper Prize

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Feb. 18, 2003 -- Drs. Ivan A. Getting and Bradford W. Parkinson will be awarded the 2003 Draper Prize tonight in recognition of their technological achievements in the development of the Global Positioning System (GPS). Getting and Parkinson will share the $500,000 award and receive gold medals at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the award's administrator, the National Academy of Engineering.

The Draper Prize is one of engineering's highest honors, and it is awarded annually to individuals or groups whose work demonstrates a "reduction to practice"--a proven innovation--that contributes to human welfare and freedom. It was established in 1988 at the request of Draper Laboratory to honor the memory of Dr. Charles Stark Draper, the "father of inertial navigation," and to increase public understanding of the contributions of engineering and technology to society.

"GPS is an achievement that deservedly joins the ranks of previous Draper Prize honors, such as the semiconductor microchip, the jet engine, satellite technology, fiber optics, and the Internet," said Dr. Wm. A. Wulf, president of the National Academy of Engineering.

GPS is a constellation of 24 satellites that broadcast signals to and receive signals from ground stations and mobile receivers, which use the signals to determine location on or above the Earth to within 300 feet typically.

GPS was developed initially for the guidance, navigation, and control of military aircraft, missiles, and satellites in space, as well as to aid people on the ground. It has become commonplace in many everyday applications and has fundamentally changed navigation for various modes of transportation through its capability to give precise positioning coordinates and very accurate real time. GPS is currently part of such technologies as weapons and air traffic control systems, and is used in ships, trucks, and automobiles. It is increasingly being employed in areas of health and welfare, as well as in emergency situations.

Ivan Getting, president emeritus of the Aerospace Corp., in the 1950s envisioned a system that would use satellite transmitters to pinpoint with extreme accuracy locations anywhere on Earth. After it is was shown that GPS could work, Getting became a tireless advocate for making sure the complex system was actually built.

Bradford Parkinson was Department of Defense program director for the original definition of the GPS system architecture, as well as for its engineering, development, demonstration, and implementation. He continues to work at Stanford University as principal investigator for several GPS research projects, further honing its accuracy and using it to control such things as helicopters, farm tractors, and spacecraft.

The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Inc. is a not-for-profit, independent, research and development laboratory engaged in applied research, engineering development, advanced technical education, and technology transfer. With origins at MIT, it has pioneered in the application of science and technology to challenging problems of national significance. Examples of its work include design and development of guidance systems or components for all deployed U.S. strategic missiles; guidance, navigation, and control systems for NASA's manned and scientific spacecraft; fault-tolerant ship control computers for the Seawolf submarine; autonomous underwater, air, space, and ground systems for DARPA; integrated Global Positioning System/micromechanical inertial sensing systems for precision guided munitions; the ground antenna and monitor station simulators and telecommunications simulator test station for the GPS Block II, IIA, IIR, and IIF satellites; biomedical engineering research; and applied information systems.

For additional information about the Draper Prize, contact Leila Rao, NAE awards administrator, at 202.334.1237 or Kathleen Granchelli, communications director, Draper Laboratory, at 617.258.2605.


      CONTACT: Draper Laboratory
               Kathleen Granchelli, 617/258-2605