In Memoriam: Dee Ann Divis

Dee Ann Divis, the founding editor of Inside Unmanned Systems and contributing editor for Inside GNSS, died Nov. 22 at the age of 62, just days from her Dec. 19 birthday.

A native of Lincoln, Nebraska, she spent most of her career in the Washington, D.C., area, becoming a recognized expert on satellite navigation position, navigation and timing. She began her career working with a company that sought to launch a private space shuttle before working with a number of publications on technology-related issues.

Dee Ann Divis (center) at the Neal Awards luncheon in New York City, 2018, with colleagues Christine Waring (left) and Renee Knight (right).

Glen Gibbons, the former editor of Inside GNSS, recalled how Dee Ann stepped in to write a Washington View column for GPS World in 1996.

“She had a background in space-related issues, understood satellites, launches, and such. But GNSS was still a mystery to her, as it was to most of the world’s citizens who have since come to depend on it. Nonetheless, Dee Ann plunged right in with a column discussing Russia’s GLONASS system and ICO Global Communications’ proposal to put navigation signals on Inmarsat satellites,” Gibbons said.

“However that first connection was made, by referral or advertisement, it was the beginning of a successful professional relationship that evolved into friendship during the 20-plus years that Dee Ann and I worked together.”

Divis was a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT and held a variety of high-profile science journalism jobs, including for UPI, Aerospace Daily, Al Jazeera and most recently for Navigation Outlook, which she founded and edited, providing deep reporting on GPS and PNT technologies.

“Dee Ann was, first of all, a quintessential journalist,” Gibbons said. “She brought to our trade publications all the training and values of the news journalism background that we shared: accuracy, fairness, proportionality, relevance, context, and so on. … Dee Ann was fearless in posing hard questions in public venues or in private to those responsible for GNSS policy or its operation and applications. Over the years, she developed a devoted following among readers who trusted and relied on her journalism, her good-hearted personality, and her deep knowledge of the GNSS field. They will miss her presence, her friendship, and her contributions. As will I.”

Abe Peck, who worked alongside Divis on Inside Unmanned Systems, said as founding editor she shaped it “into a leading definer of and advocate for the expanding world of autonomous vehicles and their essential technologies. Drawing on decades of experience, her coverage of regulation emerging from Washington, D.C., key states and global hot spots was especially astute.

“She also added insights about government rules and programs to sister publication Inside GNSS, detailing how proliferating satellite navigation systems were being impacted by policy issues. As a result, Dee Ann was justly honored for her journalism by the Society of Professional Journalists and other organizations. Her contributions endure.”

I spent some of my career competing with Dee Ann, as I was editor of what was then Unmanned Systems, a rival publication. After seeing her at numerous events and press conferences, I can attest to her fearlessness and nose for news. She seemed almost omnipresent at times. It always made me nervous when I attended an event and she wasn’t there, in case she had found something better; I hope now that she has.