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Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System Team Wins the 2018 Collier Trophy

The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) announced the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto GCAS) Team as the recipient of the 2018 Robert J. Collier Trophy. This prestigious award is presented annually for the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America.

The Auto GCAS Team is a partnership among the U.S. Air Force led by Air Force Research Lab and the F-35 program, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, led by the Defense Safety Oversight Council, Lockheed Martin led by the Advanced Development Programs and NASA led by Armstrong Flight Research Center.

The NAA released a statement stating the Auto GCAS team was selected due to its success in completing a rapid design, integration and flight test of critical, lifesaving technology for the worldwide F-35 fleet.

The technology behind the Auto GCAS allows the software system to take over the controls of an aircraft upon determining ground collision is imminent. The system warns the pilot, and if no action is taken by the pilot, it locks the pilot controls and performs an automatic recovery maneuver, returning full control back to the pilot once the aircraft has cleared the near terrain. The Auto GCAS has saved the lives of eight pilots in the 4 and a half years since it was fielded in the F-16 fleet.

“Our team has dedicated countless hours of programming, research and flight testing to build this life saving system,” said Mark Skoog, Principal Investigator for Autonomy at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center. “It’s an incredible honor to be part of the team being recognized by such a prestigious award for developing this new milestone in the history of flight.”

NASA’s involvement began in the mid-80s with the development of this technology under its Aeronautic Research Mission Directorate. Various NASA projects including the migration of the Auto GCAS onto general aviation aircraft such as Langley Research Center’s Lancair led to its success.

Further development of the technology continues at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center as part of the Resilient Autonomy effort, a joint collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration and Office of the Secretary of Defense with numerous Department of Defense Services and Commands. 

The Auto GCAS Team was one of 11 nominees that were evaluated by the Collier Trophy Selection Committee comprised of 30 aviation and aerospace professionals.

For more information about the National Aeronautic Association and the Robert J. Collier award, visit:

For more about NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center, visit:

Elvia Valenzuela
NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center