Father of Ground Prox Gets Medal

It's hardly a champion of air travel these days, but the White House has announced that it will present a National Medal of Technology and Innovation to Honeywell's Don Bateman for his contributions in making air travel safer for us all. Bateman was key in inventing two critical safety systems we now take for granted, ground proximity warning systems and wind shear detection.

The development of ground proximity warning systems (GPWS) and, later, enhanced ground proximity (EGPWS) have arguably saved thousands of lives and relegated controlled flight into terrain in turbine airplanes (once the primary cause of transport-category accidents) to rare occurrences. GPWS (commonly known simply as “ground prox”) warns pilots of high terrain. Enhanced ground prox takes the technology further by predicting upcoming conflicts and warning pilots about them. All of today’s terrain awareness systems are the descendants of Bateman’s work. In addition to his work helping us avoid undesired encounters with terrain, Bateman also was key in developing wind shear detection systems by using Doppler radar to detect sudden, dramatic changes in wind speed or direction and warn the pilots of the hazard.

In recent years Bateman’s team has developed synthetic vision and Honeywell’s remarkable Runway Advisory and Awareness System (RAAS), now known as SmartRunway, which warns pilots of unsafe takeoff or landing conditions. Bateman will be presented his medal later this year in a ceremony at the White House.


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