2019 Thurlow Award

Presented to: Dr. Zaher (Zak) M. Kassas

Citation: For foundational work in the theory and practice of exploiting signals of opportunity for accurate and reliable positioning, navigation and timing.

Zak Kassas - 2019 Thurlow

Dr. Zaher (Zak) M. Kassas’ research laid the theoretical foundation for simultaneous localization, timing extraction, and signal landscape mapping to enable exploitation of signals of opportunity (SoPs) for positioning, navigation and timing (PNT). Dr. Kassas and his team convincingly demonstrated that PNT via SoPs is eminently practical and accurate for several important use cases: unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), ground vehicles and pedestrians in indoor environments.

Dr. Kassas and his team made breakthrough contributions that proved SoPs could be practically exploited for high-accuracy, real-world PNT. Dr. Kassas’ team is credited with developing a comprehensive approach to extract accurate PNT information from long-term-evolution (LTE) cellular signals and a tightlycoupled SoP-aided inertial navigation system (INS) framework for robust and accurate navigation. He also demonstrated UAVs navigating at sub-meter-level accuracy exclusively with ambient cellular communications signals via sustained carrier-phase-based positioning and he developed a simultaneous tracking and navigation (STAN) framework to exploit low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite signals and demonstrated UAVs and ground vehicles navigating with this framework.

Dr. Kassas’ work with opportunistic navigation and signal landscape simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) fills an acute need for reliable navigation solutions in GPS-denied environments, with civil and defense applications. Dr. Kassas has received numerous awards, including 2018 IEEE Walter Fried Award; 2018 ION Samuel Burka Award; 2018 National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award; and 2019 Office of Naval Research (ONR) Young Investigator Program (YIP) award.

Dr. Kassas is an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering and Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science at the University of California, Irvine. He received a BSEE from the Lebanese American University, an MSEE from The Ohio State University, and an MS in Aerospace Engineering and a PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin.