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Spatially Speaking
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1/25/2015 » 1/29/2015
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4/13/2015 » 4/16/2015
Collaboration: The Map to the Future, a national surveying, mapping, and geospatial conference

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"Spatially Speaking" is the official MAPPS blog providing information on topics related to the association and profession and MAPPS involvement with the issues.


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Top tags: Congress  Geospatial  LIDAR  Privacy  UAV  FAA  3DEP  Mapping  MAPPS  Surveying  Economy  FCC  FLAIR Act  USGS  Advocacy  Business  Exporting  FGDC  FTC  Jobs  MIO-UIMT  NOAA  Tax  USACE  2014 Winter Conference  Accomplishments  Aviation  COGO  DHS  Digital Coast 

MAPPS Responds to BVLOS Questions

Posted By John Palatiello, Friday, December 12, 2014

MAPPS Executive Director John Palatiello was recently named to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) working group to an Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) to advise on beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) policy and regulations for unmanned aircraft systems.

The ARC's purpose is to provide input from users or potential users of UAS on immediate, near- and long-term issues for integrating UAS into the national airspace system. It will advise on the next group of regulations that the FAA will be writing after establishing the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that is anticipated to come out later this year.

Each member was asked to submit (1) their 3- to 5-year anticipated requirements for BVLOS UAS operations; (2) perceived barriers to conducting those operations; and (3) recommendations for the FAA to consider on how to remove those barriers.
The following is what Mr. Palatiello submitted, based on input from numerous MAPPS member firm principals. 

MAPPS looks forward to a VLOS and BVLOS regulatory environment that will enable UAS to support key industries such as transportation, oil and gas, mining, power transmission, and agriculture. These industries often have specific infrastructure in defined geographies that require more support than what can be efficiently and safely provided by manned aviation. We believe this additional support will enhance public health, welfare and safety while enabling advanced technologies to improve performance and potentially reduce costs. This support can be safely provided sooner through administrative/procedural processes before fully capable sense and avoid capabilities that are certified and standardized are achieved.  The same is true for communications systems. Both of these technologies are feasible.  However, both are also quite expensive, and therefore not seen as practical in the short term for the very small systems.

As an association of firms that currently operate manned aircraft for geospatial data acquisition and are entering the UAV arena, we are keenly interested in the safety of both manned and unmanned aircraft.

BVLOS becomes an issue, not solely due to the distance of the UAS from the operator, but terrain is also a factor.  For example, when conducting a survey of an open pit mine, the operator loses LOS when the UAS flies down into the pit. The operator regains contact when the UAS emerges.  Actually, the UAS is technically at a negative Above Ground Level (-AGL) elevation.  The second and bigger issue is quarries and stockpiles.  This occurs when the UAS cannot be seen for some periods of time due to a stockpile blocking the line of sight. 

It is suggested that an "autonomous agent" system be incorporated into the flight management firmware. When activated, the UAS uploads (via cellular technology) its flight plan and tail number to a central database. It also downloads the flight plans of any other vehicle which will be in the vicinity of another. This central database could be run at a private firm and needs not be a government system. Such a system exists today for satellites and could be easily adopted for UAS.

Coupled with the above, the "national database" can also contain "no fly zones". The firmware can have a complete list of permanent, published zones, but when activated, include all new, short-term, and temporary restricted areas. The firmware could be hard coded to PREVENT flight into these areas, regardless of the operator’s flight instructions, or some zones can be restricted only by altitude or time of day. In these cases, the flight plan may enable the aircraft to penetrate these areas only at those unrestricted altitudes or times, such as sports stadiums during an event.

UAS for aerial surveying and mapping will need to fly BVLOS for days on end. They will need to be able to refuel/recharge in unattended mode. Our pilots will need to be able to fly these "across Texas" from a base of operations office in Iowa, for example. We will need to fly across populated and unpopulated areas.

Until operational, affordable “sense and avoid” technology is available, the aforementioned technology and process can be operational.

The BVLOS ideal system will fly at low altitude; carry multiple sensors; and fly autonomously for long distances.  Today, this type of work is generally being flown using helicopters, while higher altitude collection occurs via manned, fixed-wing aircraft.  

Many new technologies are being developed and tested which should, over the next several years, prove to be capable of meeting the needs for safe BVLOS operations.  These new technologies will need to have increasing levels of proficiency as the systems are flown at higher altitude and are flown in more complex airspaces.

The establishment of a graduated set of requirements for BVLOS technologies based on types of airspace, altitudes, proximity to people, etc. may be desirable.  The easy approach would be to require all BVLOS operations to have the most sophisticated possible systems available.  This would immediately create just two classes of UAS, the very small systems for LOS operations and the large sophisticated systems for all BVLOS operations.  However, the technology and applications will become much more sophisticated than that.  A “one size fits all” approach is not recommended.

 (2) perceived barriers to conducting those operations; and

MAPPS is concerned that technology development will outpace FAA rulemaking.  While assuring the safety of the national airspace with the integration of commercial, operational UAS, such rules must be dynamic enough to respond to changing and improving technology.

(3) recommendations for the FAA to consider on how to remove those barriers.

It is important that FAA accept, and educate Congress, state legislatures, other target audiences, and the general public about the expectation of safety.  Every day Americans accept a certain risk when the ride in an automobile or board a commercial airliner.  While there are safety rules and systems in place, there are still accidents, failures and injuries.  The same must be recognized and accepted with UAS.  Understanding how to minimize and manage these events will be necessary. Technology and regulations as above will help to greatly minimize and mitigate, but never completely eliminate, such errors, failures, and irresponsible actions.

The focus of regulations should be on outcomes, not the means to outcomes.  Technology and innovation will create the means to achieve desired FAA outcomes.

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MAPPS Applauds Obama Administration’s Willingness to Consider Selling Federal Property to Private Sector

Posted By Beth Hawley, Monday, December 08, 2014

MAPPS was pleased to hear the Obama Administration's announcement that the White House is open to suggestions made by Rep. John Mica (R-FL) in a 2010 report that the federal government step up its efforts to surplus and sell unneeded Federal land and buildings.

As chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the U.S. House of Representatives, Mica oversaw the 2010 report Sitting on Our Assets: The Federal Government's Misuse of Taxpayer-Owned Assets. The report outlined ways to reduce, sell or reallocate federal assets with suggested savings to taxpayers, including several billion from real property sales.

"This is something that the Office of Management and Budget has been focused quite a bit under this president's leadership," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said this week. "There has been a concerted effort to reduce costs, to cut red tape, and to deal with surplus federal government assets."

As reported by John Gizzi of Newsmax, Earnest said Mica's report is "certainly something we would take a look at."

MAPPS has long advocated for a current, accurate inventory of all federal property, as well as a reduction in non-essential expenditures and activities that duplicate or compete with activities available in the private sector, and the sale of surplus, unneeded and under-utilized federally owned land and buildings.

As chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Mica continued to investigate mismanagement of federal real property assets in the 113th Congress.

"There is an enormous opportunity to reduce the size and cost of government, and make it more efficient, by having an inventory of federal real property, and selling land and buildings no longer needed," said John Palatiello, Executive Director of MAPPS. "There are more than 5.1 million acres of federal land classified as "vacant" with no definable purpose and 3.3 million acres of lands which the Bureau of Land Management has identified through its land use planning process as surplus and suitable for disposal. The sale of such surplus property could not only generate revenue to the government, but also reduce operating and maintenance expenses.  We commend Representative Mica for his leadership and welcome the support and active participation of the Obama Administration.  We also recognize the support of Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), ranking member of Mr. Mica's subcommittee.  This is an area where there can be bipartisan support and cooperation between Congress and the White House in 2015."

Legislation to inventory, evaluate, surplus and dispose Federal real property has been introduced in Congress by Republican Representatives Jason Chaffetz of Utah (H.R. 328 and H.R. 2657), Jeff Denham of California (H.R. 695), Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania (H.R. 2612), Rob Bishop of Utah (H.R. 2095) and by Democratic Senators Tom Carper of Delaware (S. 1382 and S. 1398) and Mark Warner of Virginia (S. 1715).

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Astaeus Aerial Exemption to Allow UAS for Entertainment Filming.

Posted By Beth Hawley, Friday, October 10, 2014
Read more about it here.

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MAPPS Calls For Examples of Academia Engagement in Geospatial Activities

Posted By Beth Hawley, Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Congress is preparing to reauthorize the Higher Education Authorization (HEA), the Federal law that establishes policy and reauthorizes Federal programs in support of colleges and universities. MAPPS has long advocated for colleges and universities engage in preparing the next generation of professionals and technical leaders. This preparations should largely consisted of education, training, and basic research. However, all to often universities stray from education and basic research by engaging in commercial activities, including geospatial production work, in direct and unfair duplication and competition with private sector geospatial firms.

At the request of the Committee on Education and the Workforce of the U.S. House of Representatives, the MAPPS staff has been tasked with collecting examples from the MAPPS membership where the academic community successfully partners with the private sector for geospatial education and research, as well as examples of where the academic community performs clearly commercial geospatial work that is already available from or conducted by the private sector.

Please take a few minutes to contact MAPPS staff John "JB" Byrd and provide him with the following information. The deadline to respond is October 15, 2014.

For the benefits of successful education and basic research partnerships, please include the following:
Name of the college/university; Client/agency/source of revenue; dollar value of the program/project; Scope of the education and/or training provided to students; and any additional documentation or weblinks (including online promotion of the effort by the college/university, or media coverage).

For the problems with unfair university competition, please include the following:
Name of the college/university; Client/agency/source of revenue; dollar value of the program/project; Scope of work including location mapped; and any additional documentation or weblinks (including online promotion of the contract or project by the college/university, or media coverage). There are often incidents where the university fails and the project is suspended. If you are aware of such incidents, please provide details.

None of the details you provide will be attributed to you or your firm. This data call is your opportunity to provide MAPPS staff with recent and relevant examples of engagement by academic institutions that are both helpful and harmful to the private sector geospatial community, and will provide actionable information that Congress can use to write provisions in the Higher Education Act to help focus colleges and universities on their core mission, while reducing or eliminating unfair university competition with the private sector in our field.

Marvin Miller, Chair
MAPPS Forum on Unfair Government and University Competition

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Where is the market growing? Exports!

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Thursday, September 04, 2014
Updated: Thursday, September 04, 2014

When MAPPS started planning an international conference, we knew that exporting was a growth market.

Now the latest government data confirms our assumption - exports are driving U.S. economic growth and job creation.

Don't miss out on this opportunity to keep or create jobs, increase revenue, open new markets, and establish new clients.

Register today for the Geospatial and Engineering International Conference, September 25-26 at the Westin Hotel in Alexandria, VA. 

Registration Discount Offer Extended!

Book your hotel room at the Westin Alexandria and receive a promotional code to take an extra $50 off the already reduced early registration fee. Once you have booked your hotel room, email MAPPS to receive the promotional code! This offer has been extended to September 12.

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MAPPS Minute - Awards and Special Offer

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Friday, August 22, 2014

Check out the "MAPPS Accomplishments" video produced for the 2014 Summer Conference.

Pictures from the MAPPS Summer Conference have been posted on the MAPPS Facebook page. While you're there, don't forget to "LIKE" our page!

Special Offer for Geospatial & Engineering International Conference - REGISTER AND SAVE TODAY!

Conference attendees are eligible for a $50 discount in addition to the early registration fee by making a hotel reservation at the Westin Alexandria (Alexandria, VA). Once an attendee has reserved a room, contact MAPPS to receive a special promotional code to receive the $50 discount. This offer will expire on September 4.

The full program and registration are available at

Tags:  Accomplishments  Exporting  FLAIR  Global Trade  International  MAPPS Summer Conference  UAV 

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Contact U.S. Senators to cosponsor the Digital Coast Act

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Congress is on its August recess, meaning Representatives and Senators are in their home states meeting with constituents and taking part in events. MAPPS members should use this time period to contact their Senators and urge them to cosponsor the soon-to-be-introduced "Digital Coast Act of 2014." Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) plans to introduce the Senate companion to H.R. 1382, a bipartisan bill in the U.S. House by Representatives "Dutch" Ruppersberger (D-MD) and Don Young (R-AK). This bill would formally authorize the highly popular “Digital Coast” project in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that provides geospatial data to our coastal communities.
Current cosponsors include Senators Mark Begich (D-AK), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Angus King (I-ME), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA). From this list, you will see that no Republican Senator is listed. The challenge is for MAPPS members from coastal states (including the Great Lakes), or branch offices in these states, with a Republican Senator to contact your respective Senators and urge them to join Sen. Baldwin in cosponsoring this important bill. Visits, meetings and communications should be focused on Republican Senators from Coastal states.  

Targeted Coastal Republican Senators are: AL: Sessions, Shelby; AK: Murkowski; FL: Rubio; GA: Chambliss, Isakson; IL: Kirk; IN: Coats; LA: Vitter; ME: Collins; MS: Cochran, Wicker; NC: Burr; OH: Portman; PA: Toomey; SC: Graham, Scott; TX: Cornyn, Cruz; and WI: Johnson.

You can also contact these Senators’ legislative staff in Washington, DC. To help identify staff, or for further assistance, please contact MAPPS government affairs manager John "JB" Byrd at or 703-787-6996.

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Support for 3DEP Growing

Posted By John Palatiello, Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Support is growing for 3DEP, the USGS program to develop nationwide elevation coverage of the United States.

MAPPS led the effort to generate stakeholder support for 3DEP funding on Congress.  MAPPS Government Affairs Manager John “JB” Byrd coordinated letters of support from MAPPS and numerous other groups and I had the privilege of testifying before the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee. The effort bore fruit. Last week, the House Appropriations Committee approved its fiscal year 2015 bill and included the following in its explanatory committee report (page 38), “Core Science Systems.—The Committee recommends $106,151,000 for core science systems, $2,656,000 below the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and $3,249,000 below the budget request.  The Committee recommendation includes the requested increases for the Big Earth Data Initiative; Ecosystem Information; the 3–D Elevation Program; the Alaska mapping project; and the National Map Modernization effort.” The figures in the President’s request are $5 million for 3DEP, $236,000 for Alaska Mapping, $1.9 million for The National Map Modernization, and $60,428,000 for the National Geospatial Program. 

There was also a very exciting announcement from the White House this week. The Obama Administration announced a climate change data initiative that includes 3DEP. John Byrd and I met with a member of the White House staff, Bina Venkatarman, Senior Advisor for Climate Change Innovation, to discuss the role 3DEP and other geospatial data play in verifying, validating, monitoring and measuring the alleged effects of climate change. The White House initiative provides, “Developing advanced mapping data and tools. The Department of the Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey and other Federal agencies today launched a $13.1 million 3-D Elevation Program partnership designed to bring Federal agencies, academia, corporate entities, states, tribes, and communities together to develop advanced 3-dimensional mapping data of the United States. These data and related tools will be used in the areas of flood risk management, water resource planning, mitigation of coastal erosion and storm surge impacts, and identification of landslide hazards as an essential component of supporting action on climate resilience. 

3D Model provided by Woolpert, Inc. of the southern side of Fire Island, Long Island, NY. 

On July 18, 2014, the USGS issued a Broad Agency Announcement that provides detailed information on how to partner with the USGS and other Federal agencies to acquire high-quality 3D data. Information and contacts are now available at FedBizOps. Offerors may contribute funds toward a USGS lidar data acquisition activity or they may request 3DEP funds toward a lidar data acquisition activity where the requesting partner is the acquiring authority. Federal agencies, state and local governments, tribes, academic institutions and the private sector are eligible to submit pre-proposals.

USGS is holding a Congressional briefing on its 3DEP program Friday, July 25 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.  

The 11:00 am briefing on the House of Representatives side of the Congress/Capitol is open to Congressional staff, MAPPS members, and other supportive groups from the general public.  It will be in 2325 Rayburn House Office Building.

An afternoon briefing on the Senate side is CLOSED to the public and is limited to Senate staff.  It is at 2:00 pm in SD-366, Dirksen Senate Office Building.

All MAPPS members are welcome to attend the morning session.  Please encourage any Congressional staff with whom you are familiar or have relationships to attend their respective sessions (House staff in the morning, Senate staff in the afternoon).  In particular, follow-up with all staff with whom you met during the MAPPS Federal Programs Conference and encourage them to attend the briefing.

MAPPS is a sponsor of the event and will host lunch at the House event.

Tags:  3DEP  Climate Change  Congress  Conservation  Elevation  Elevation Data  Emergency Response  geospatial  LIDAR  Technology  USGS 

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Privacy Update and Request for Information

Posted By John Palatiello, Thursday, July 10, 2014

MAPPS has for some time been working on the issue of individual citizen privacy as it applies to geospatial data.

Specifically, the Federal Trade Commission, and legislation in Congress and some state legislatures, seek to regulate the collection, use, storage, and dissemination of "precise geolocation data", and in most instances, fails to define that term.

MAPPS has held sessions at its conferences, "lobbied' the issue before Congress, presented testimony before Congress, and educated the community through blogs and trade magazine articles.  

Recently, Senator John Thune (R-SD) questioned the FTC Chair on this issue.  Attached are his questions and FTC's responses.  This is significant because the extent of the government's regulatory interest is narrowed by a doctrine of  “context of the interaction” that had not previously been shared with MAPPS or others in the geospatial community (e.g. COGO or the FGDC)  exempts a large percentage (but not all) of what our members do.

The FTC challenged associations to develop a "best practices" guide for its members in its report, "Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change".
MAPPS, under the leadership of Susann Marlow (Smart Data Strategies, Franklin, TN), our Cadastre Task Force Chair and MAPPS President-Elect, we are attempting to draft such a "best practices" guide.

If your firm has a guide, policy or any other document regarding privacy and the data you collect, store, apply, or disseminate, I would be grateful if you would share it so we might consider it in the development of a MAPPS document for the good of the profession and the public we serve in the marketplace.

Please send your policy, guidance, standard, etc. to me and to Susan.

Thank you in advance for your contribution to your profession.

Tags:  Congress  Data  Federal Trade Commission  FGDC  FTC  Geospatial  John Thune  Privacy  Technology 

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MAPPS News on UAS Exemption, Federal Contracting and Nominations

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Thursday, June 05, 2014

Today, MAPPS is announcing it will host a webinar to review the Section 333 application process of the FAA Modernization Act of 2012 for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for private sector geospatial firms and solicit interested MAPPS member firms that want to be part of the application.  Time, date and registration will be announced by email and on the MAPPS website shortly.

The ability for MAPPS to address this and other aviation related issues is due to the contributions of firms to our Aviation Legal Plan. MAPPS members are encouraged to make a minimum donation of $250 to participate in the Plan. Contribute online now

The MAPPS Summer Meeting is July 27-31 in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.  At the conference we will have a special “UAS Day” which is focus on the systems, sensors, data, application and regulations for UAS.  Don’t miss this unique opportunity. Register today!

On June 25, the Council on Federal Procurement of Architecture and Engineering Services, COFPAES, of which MAPPS is a member, will host an introductory webinar to Federal Contracting of Professional A/E, mapping and related services. If your firm is interested in expanding your business through Federal contracting, you will not want to miss this session. MAPPS members receive a discount registration of $49.00.  Register at

A final reminder, individuals who wish to be considered for election to the MAPPS Board can submit a statement of interest in writing to the chair of our Nominations, Pamela Nobles, by close of business Thursday, June 5. 

MAPPS continues to be an advocate for market growth and private sector geospatial firms.

In an economy where you are counting every dollar, it is good to know you can count on MAPPS.

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