2006 Thurlow Award

Presented to: David J. Pietraszewski

Citation: For outstanding contributions to the advancement of marine navigation in civil use of GPS, development of United States Coast Guard DGPS and the Automatic Identification System.


David J. Pietraszewski's technical contributions span 30 years in GPS, vessel tracking, and Automatic Identification System (AIS). Pietraszewski's first GPS effort was to characterize the performance of the GPS Coarse Acquisition code for civil use. A full data analysis system was developed and GPS Block I performance was observed at the U.S.C.G. R&D Center for several years. This analysis guided Coast Guard decisions regarding maritime use of GPS and the decision to pursue augmentation with differential corrections. In the development of RTCM SC104 standard for DGPS corrections, Pietraszewski wrote large sections of the text dealing with the data handling and details of how to implement the data link. He was the Coast Guard expert on using the MF radiobeacon for DGPS. Pietraszewski ran the project at the R&D center and developed the first RTCM SC104 capable user sets and reference stations, the world's first radiobeacon MSK modulators and demodulator/receivers, and put the world's first beacon based DGPS service on the air in 1989. His technical expertise of the details, his ability to envision the overall system, and his skill at managing the execution yielded a system that is the backbone of maritime navigation in the United States and the world.

Pietraszewski demonstrated digital selective calling based vessel tracking in Narragansett Bay and built a wireless Internet based vessel information system in San Francisco Bay. These efforts gave the Coast Guard and Pietraszewski the expertise to guide the international effort towards the International Maritime Organization's Automatic Identification System (AIS). The ability to prevent collisions and contribute to superior situational awareness on board merchant ships was the initial focus of AIS. AIS use of time division multiple access VHF channel sharing in busy ports was not well understood. He contributed to the international development of AIS by building an AIS simulation to model VHF channel traffic loading and is a tireless contributor to several international standards committees (ITU, IEC, IALA) on AIS.

Beginning in 2002, Pietraszewski implemented a prototype AIS receiving network on both US coasts and Hawaii. Today this network is the prototype Nationwide AIS system — daily tracking several thousand ships navigating U.S. waters. Pietraszewski's is widely acknowledged as the U.S. expert in AIS and one of a handful of international experts on the subject.