The Institute of Navigation (ION) has selected Todd Humphreys, assistant professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics at the Cockrell School of Engineering, to receive the Colonel Thomas L. Thurlow Award. Humphreys was selected “for contributions that enhance radionavigation security and robustness in the face of intentional spoofing and natural interference.” ION presented Humphreys with the award at the ION Technical Meeting (ITM) in Dana Point, California, January 26-28.
The prestigious award is given annually to one individual in recognition of outstanding contributions to the science of navigation “in memory of Colonel Thomas L. Thurlow, U.S. Army 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.” Thurlow met an untimely death in 1944 while flight testing a new compass.
An expert in spoofing threats, Humphreys and his group and have proven the vulnerability of navigation security with demonstrations that have included conducting the first live-signal spoofing attack of a civilian drone in 2012 at the UT Darrell K. Royal stadium. Shortly after, Humphreys was invited to conduct the same demonstration for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in White Sands, New Mexico, where he once again successfully demonstrated that GPS signals of a UAV can be commandeered by an outside source. In June 2013, his group targeted the navigation system of an $80 million superyacht and successfully gained control of the ship’s navigation system, coercing it off its original course.
Humphreys is the director of The UT Radionavigation Laboratory where his group develops theory and technologies for secure, robust, and precise perception, emphasizing location, collision avoidance, and timing perception.
He has been an invited keynote speaker in many technical conferences, has presented at SXSW Interactive, and has been mentioned in numerous media publications. His TED talk on location and security and privacy has over 600,000 views and he was recently featured in the Alcade’s “Up in the Air.” Humphreys has also testified on drone spoofing before the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Management in Washington D.C. His work on GPS location accuracy with a smartphone antenna will be featured in the February 2015 issue of GPS World.