Perhaps no new technology in history will revolutionize the aerial surveying and mapping community like unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Recognizing both the disruption and opportunity the ability to acquire aerial imagery and other data from a pilotless devise and system brings, MAPPS has been at the forefront of advocacy, access, and achievement with regard to commercial operation of UAV in the United States.
The first session on UAV at a MAPPS conference was in January of 2008 when John “Johnny” Walker, chairman of the Federal Aviation Administration-chartered Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA) special panel on UAV-UAS briefed MAPPS Membership during Winter Conference in Rancho Mirage, California. That was nearly seven years ago – long before any other geospatial organization began paying attention to UAV.
Since that time, FAA officials have regularly attended MAPPS conferences to keep members apprised of policy and regulatory developments. MAPPS was a strong proponent of provisions in the FAA Modernization and Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 that established authorizations and directives to the FAA on safe commercial UAV integration in U.S. airspace.
MAPPS has also had meetings with FAA officials. That advocacy resulted in the aerial surveying and mapping community being specifically named in the FAA "Roadmap" as a key constituency and a market whose use of UAV will provide significant economic benefit to the nation. We forged a strategic partnership with AUVSI, the largest UAV organization in the nation. Their government affairs manager has attended MAPPS meetings, and MAPPS was invited to make a presentation before AUVSI’s government affairs committee. MAPPS and AUVSI co-hosted a highly successful webinar on UAV and geospatial applications. With ASPRS, we hosted special UAV programming at our joint specialty technical conference in Tampa, FL in 2012.
At the state level, MAPPS has been a leader in getting lawmakers in state legislatures to recognize that aerial imagery for mapping from UAVs benefits the public and should NOT be part of restrictions on future UAV use. We affected legislation in several states.
Through the MAPPS Legal Aviation Plan, we met with FAA to find an efficient way to get commercial aerial survey UAVs in operation. Those efforts played a role in two MAPPS member firms recently being among the first to obtain section 333 exemptions.
MAPPS is a member of the National Conference of State Legislatures partnership on UAV, developing policy that recognizes the important role aerial surveying and mapping utilizing UAV will play, and MAPPS was selected to be on a working group advising the FAA on beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) regulations.
MAPPS has made the point that manned photogrammetry has been in existence for decades without problem or controversy. While commercial satellite remote sensing is more recent, such firms are licensed by the federal government and are legally entitled to engage in such business. This is an established, accepted, legal, ethical and growing business practice.
Government agencies at all levels are increasingly reliant upon imagery and geospatial data for the management of natural resources, economic development, the management, adjudication, and prevention of future disruptions in the home mortgage system, the development and implementation of a smart energy grid, the deployment of universal domestic broadband service, the management of Federal real property assets, emergency preparedness and response, homeland security, the delivery of efficient health care and other services provided, financed, or regulated by the Federal Government, measuring, monitoring, verifying and validating the effects of climatic and environmental phenomena, and the maintenance, rehabilitation, and enhancement of public works, transportation, and other infrastructure of the United States. These and other applications will be enhanced and made more efficient with the uses of UAV.
Imagery and geospatial data collection, usage and application is a valued part of the modern American economy, as it is broadly applied to improve the analyses and decisions necessary to sustain and enhance the quality of life. The collection of such data from a UAV, when carried out ethically and in a fashion that complies with all appropriate policy and regulatory frameworks, does not threaten the privacy of individual citizens.
MAPPS members operating a UAV are not hobbyists, voyeurs or in any way participants in nefarious activities. As longtime operators of manned aircraft, we are as concerned about aviation safety as anyone.
In the coming days or weeks, the FAA is expected to release a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on small, low altitude, commercial UAV operations. MAPPS believes aerial surveying and mapping will be able to operate safely and responsibly within these rules. We expect these rules to reflect the association’s long term engagement with and education of FAA officials.
Many others talk about UAVs. MAPPS has been doing something about them to benefit our members and the Nation.