NASA’s Mark Skoog wins USGIF Award for Auto GCAS terrain system development

Mark Skoog of NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California won the 2020 United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation’s achievement award.

The honor was bestowed on him for his work on the terrain system development and evaluation for the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System.

The USGIF award recognizes an individual or team from a government organization who successfully enhances mission effectiveness using geospatial intelligence-related capabilities.

Mark Skoog, Armstrong principal Investigator for Autonomy, and Loyd Hook, the head of the Vehicle Autonomy and Intelligence Lab at the University of Tulsa, along with their NASA team and partners in the U.S. Air Force, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Lockheed Martin, developed the Auto GCAS system. The system prevents imminent collisions with the ground. The work involved with the terrain system development and evaluation enabled the development of Auto GCAS. The system has saved the lives of 10 F-16 pilots to date.

“Dr. Hook and I have worked for many years, myself 35 years, bringing digital terrain information into the world of aviation safety,” Skoog said. “It has really been us leveraging the tremendous work of the mapping community. To have that mapping community recognize us in such a special way is truly an honor.”

Mark Skoog, center, is recognized for his role in the 2018 Collier Trophy award to the Auto Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto GCAS) Team at the NASA Armstrong Honor Awards on Aug. 25, 2019, at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California. From left are Janet Karika, former NASA chief of staff, Skoog and Center Director David McBride. Skoog, NASA Armstrong principal investigator for Autonomy, recently won the 2020 United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation’s achievement award, also for Auto GCAS work. (NASA photograph by Lauren Hughes)

The USGIF award citation reads: “Auto GCAS is the culmination of a decades-long effort to bring geospatial intelligence to aircraft safety. This work involved traveling the world, evaluating myriad digital terrain from Sweden to Hawaii. The team extensively tested the system to ensure against every category of controlled flight into terrain mishaps—and found it would have prevented every one, which resulted in 10 lives saved thus far in the U.S. Air Force operations.”

NASA’s involvement with Auto GCAS began in the mid-1980s under the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate. Further development of the technology continues at NASA Armstrong, as part of the Resilient Autonomy effort, which is a joint collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and numerous U.S. Department of Defense services and commands.

Previously, the National Aeronautic Association awarded the Auto GCAS program with the 2018 Robert J. Collier Trophy. Each year, the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America receives this prestigious award.

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