In memoriam Per Enge

April 30, 2018  - By

With great sadness we must report that Per Enge passed away on April 22, at home and surrounded by family. Per was a genial friend and colleague to many, and a pillar of the PNT community. He is greatly missed by all.

At the culmination of his long, fruitful career he served as the Vance and Arlene Coffman Professor of Engineering at Stanford University, where he also directed the Stanford Center for Position Navigation and Time.

For many years he conducted research funded by the Federal Aviation Administration, directed at safe and secure air navigation and leading to development of the Wide Area Augentation System (WAAS) and Local Area Augmentation Systems (LAAS). WAAS became fully operational for aviation in the United States in 2003 and is currently carried by more than 110,000 aircraft; similar systems have been deployed in Europe, Japan and India.

Per Enge at National Cheng Kung University (courtesy Shau Shiu Jan).

He received the Kepler Award from the Institute of Navigation in 2000 and was inducted into the GPS Hall of Fame by the U.S. Air Force in 2012. He served as a member of the Space-Based Position Navigation and Time Federal Advisory Committee since 2007. In 2013 he received the GNSS Leadership Award for Signals from this magazine, for signal design including national differential GPS, satellite-based augmentation systems, and alternative positioning, navigation and timing sources. He co-wrote Global Positioning System: Signals, Measurements, and Performance.

Always an educator, Per served as instructor, mentor and gentle encourager of many, many Ph.D. and other graduate-level students at Stanford who have gone on to distinguished careers of their own. In a lifetime marked by great achievements, this is perhaps his greatest and ultimately will be the most far-reaching.

Born in Norway and brought to the U.S. at age 2, he received a B.S.E.E. from the University of Massachusetts and M.S.E.E. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Illinois.

Speaking at GPS World dinner, accepting Signals Leadership 2013 award. (Photo: GPS World file)

In remarks on accepting the GNSS Leadership Award for Signals, Per cited Faflick’s theorem, “that you will never ever work on any projects that are both interesting and important.” After calling out both GNSS and WAAS as exceptions to the theorem, he identified a third outlier: spoofing.

“Today’s e-security is based on three security factors: what we know (passwords), what we carry (key fob), and what we are (fingerprints, iris scan). And it is not enough. To meet this challenge, we need to rejuvenate the original security factor: location. In the past, transactions were secured by our presence. In the world of e-commerce, this factor has disappeared, and we must use GNSS to approximate this ancient and effective security factor.

“All of this will require the best effort of this precious community of ours.”

Further biographical details are available in an article published by the Stanford News. Among the tributes included there is this one by Brad Parkinson, who recruited Enge to Stanford in the early 1990s. “Anyone who works in GPS is aware of Per and his influence. He was just an intellectually talented person who could understand many scientific nuances and integrate them in ways others could not.”

Teaching the massive online open course.

The article also reminds us that he co-originated and co-taught, with Frank van Diggelen, a massive open online course to share GPS knowledge with a worldwide audience, far beyond Stanford’s walls. Titled “GPS: An Introduction to Satellite Navigation, with an interactive Worldwide Laboratory using Smartphones,” it enrolled 31,000 people from 192 countries.  It is available here.

Per’s Stanford colleagues Sherman Lo, Todd Walter and Sam Pullen assisted GPS World with this article and provided these photos from personal archives. The Stanford group is working on setting up a scholarship in Per’s name.  More information on it and how to support it will be on the SCPNT website once it becomes available.

Frank van Diggelen has sent further photos, below.

At the Stanford GPS Lab with colleagues from Stanford and DLR (German aerospace agency).








Dinner discussions with US-EU bilateral group.

With Alan Chen, Sherman Lo and an early spectrum image of GIOVE-A (or Galileo).

Visiting Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria after 2005 European Navigation Conference.

At the Stanford Center Position, Navigation and Time, which he co-founded in 2005.

Team China Consumers at GPS World dinner 2010. The winning team in the Grand Game of GNSS.

Fierce “opponents” (examiners) for Ph.D. defense of Ignacio Fernández Hernández of EC/Galileo. Aalborg University, Denmark.

Prepared to come aboard in Kobenhavn.

The co-authors of Global Positioning System: Signals, Measurements, and Performance (with Pratap Misra).


A road warrior for GNSS.



Faculty of the GNSS Summer School at Svalbard, Norway (Arctic Ocean, 78.7° N).





This article is tagged with , , , , , , , and posted in GNSS, Latest News

About the Author: Alan Cameron

Alan Cameron is the former editor-at-large of GPS World magazine.