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  • J. David Grossman

A Tribute to GPS Pioneers: Jim Spilker and Ron Hatch

By: J. David Grossman, Executive Director, GPS Innovation Alliance October 3, 2019

Today’s blog post takes a more somber note, as we remember two pioneers in the GPS community who have recently passed away, Jim Spilker and Ron Hatch. Although I did not have the opportunity to work with either, they were critical figures in the success of GPS and worked closely with those representing GPSIA’s member companies.

Dr. Jim Spilker will be remembered as one of the principle architects of GPS, specifically responsible for designing the code used in the GPS civilian signal. A brilliant engineer, professor and entrepreneur, Dr. Spilker co-founded several companies, including Stanford Telecommunications, AOSense and Rosum. For nearly two decades, Dr. Spilker was also a professor at Stanford University, where he co-founded the Stanford University Research Center for Position, Navigation and Time. Most recently, Dr. Spilker, alongside Dr. Brad Parkinson, Hugo Fruehauf, and Richard Schwartz, were awarded the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, recognizing their work in developing GPS.

Many will also remember Ron Hatch, a pioneer in the use of GPS for precision farming, whose career in satellite navigation systems spanned over 50 years. During Mr. Hatch’s career, he served as the Director of Navigation Systems Engineering and a Principal and co-founder of NavCom Technology, a John Deere company. At the end of his career, he continued to work as a private consultant. Over the past eight years, Mr. Hatch also served as a member of the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) Advisory Board. As one GPSIA member remarked, “Ron was one of the most humble and down to earth people you could ever hope to meet or work with.” Another colleague and friend spoke of how “Ron infected us with a love of GPS and his incurable smile and wit.”

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Spilker and Hatch families. We are grateful for their leadership and will forever remember the contributions they made to GPS.