Institute of Navigation presents Prof. Todd Humphreys with the Thomas L. Thurlow Award

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Manassas Virginia, January 28, 2015 - The Institute of Navigation (ION) presented its Thomas L. Thurlow Award to Dr. Todd Humphreys at the ION International Technical Meeting (ITM)in Dana Point, California, January 26-28, 2015.

Dr. Humphreys was recognized for contributions that enhance radionavigation security and robustness in the face of intentional spoofing and natural interference.

Dr. Todd Humphreys’ expertise in assessing spoofing threats has catalyzed modern research in location and timing security. His lab has conducted demonstrations of navigation and timing deception of autonomous systems. In fall 2011, at the invitation of a U.S. Dept. of Energy lab, his group showed that the time synchronization of a phasor measurement unit, a critical element of the smart grid, could be arbitrarily manipulated by GPS spoofing. Months later, by invitation of the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, his lab conducted a live-signal spoofing attack in which a target UAV helicopter became remotely controllable as if caught in a tractor beam. In June 2013, his group demonstrated the potency of GPS spoofing in targeting the navigation system of an $80M super-yacht by driving the yacht several kilometers off course without triggering alarms. The UAV demonstration led to Humphreys’ first invitation to testify before a congressional committee.

Dr. Humphreys has made significant contributions to the area of robust perception. This work seeks to ensure reliable autonomous system navigation, collision avoidance, and timing despite harsh sensing environments for precise vision-based sensing and massive signal-of-opportunity exploitation. His group has made contributions to precise position estimation for consumer mobile applications and to remote sensing instrumentation. 

Dr. Humphreys is an assistant professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at The University of Texas at Austin, where he is the director of the University of Texas Radionavigation Laboratory and member of the Wireless Networking and Communications Group (WNCG). He received his PhD in Aerospace Engineering from Cornell University. He has been an invited keynote speaker in many technical conferences. His TED talk on location security and privacy has over 600,000 views; and he has spoken to millions on security and privacy-related topics through mass media outlets.

The Colonel Thomas L. Thurlow Award is granted in recognition for outstanding contributions to the science of navigation and is given in memory of Colonel Thomas L. Thurlow, U.S. Army Air Corps, a brilliant engineer, skillful pilot, and able officer who contributed significantly to the development and testing of navigation equipment and the training of navigators and pilots. He met an untimely death while flight testing a new compass in 1944.

The ION Annual Awards Program is sponsored by The Institute of Navigation (ION) to recognize individuals making significant contributions or demonstrating outstanding performance relating to the art and science of navigation.

About ION

The Institute of Navigation is the world’s premier professional society dedicated to the advancement of the art and science of positioning, navigation and timing. The Institute is a national organization whose membership spans worldwide. Additional information about the ION can be found at


View Prof. Humphreys Ted Talk on drone security in the video below.