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Spatially Speaking
MAPPS Events

11/17/2015 » 11/18/2015
MAPPS Fall Policy Conference at Drone World Expo

1/31/2016 » 2/3/2016
2016 MAPPS Winter Conference

3/14/2016 » 3/18/2016
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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A Message from the MAPPS President

Posted By Susan Marlow, Thursday, September 24, 2015

Thank you to the MAPPS membership for your confidence in my selection as President for 2015-2017. I am honored to lead this great association and look forward to working with the entire membership on building a better geospatial community.

The entire new Board and Officers are here to serve you. Please do not hesitate to contact us whenever we can be of assistance.

(From left to right: Bob Hanson, Treasurer; Brian Raber, President-Elect; Joseph Seppi, Director; Mark Brooks, Director; Chris Ogier, Secretary; Susan Marlow, President; George Southard, Director; Kelly Francis, Director; Mitch Long, Director; Thomas Newman, Director)

Over the past several months, the MAPPS Board endeavored to call a principal in every member firm. While we may not have connected with everyone, this outreach effort was intended to listen to the members so the Board could be responsive to your needs. Combined with our Task Force on the Future of MAPPS, the Board has heard a lot of great ideas on improving our association. We’re now at work reviewing and implementing many of those suggestions. Some of the suggestions we’ve already implemented include: changing the location and shortening the length of the Winter Conference to make it more affordable to more members; revising the focus of the Winter Conference to provide a greater emphasis on forum discussions; adding a new seat on the Board of Directors to represent the Associate Firms; improving the transparency, outreach and communications with the membership; changing the dues structure to assessment based upon a firm’s geospatial employees; and partnering with other organizations on conferences to reduce the proliferation of conferences. I’ll keep you posted on more improvements we’ll be implementing in the future.

Not every idea works out. For example, we heard that the Summer Conference was too long, so this year’s gathering was shortened by a day. Several of those at the Sunriver conference expressed their disappointment with the change. 

One non-member who attended the Sunriver meeting said he was impressed that MAPPS is about cooperation, not competition. Other associations are more dog-eat-dog, but MAPPS is about building a community. He’s right. We are competitors, but we have healthy “co-opetition”. Another commented that an organization like MAPPS could never succeed in Canada, because there is not the same camaraderie as we have among the firms in MAPPS. A third joined after attending the Winter Conference in Puerto Rico in January because he was impressed at how open and welcoming the MAPPS membership is to newcomers.

Such “inclusion” is something I want to make a priority of my term as President.

Everyone is welcome and encouraged to get involved. In my view, everyone in the membership has something to offer to MAPPS. I want the contribution of everyone’s talent and ideas. We do want to build a community.

To some, MAPPS is a clique. It may seem that way to newcomers because so many of the members have known each other for many years. However, if MAPPS is a good old boys’ network, then this Southern girl just busted that glass ceiling!

I’m living proof that someone can join MAPPS, get involved in an issue in which one has a passion … in my case it has been parcels … and work that issue in MAPPS. It is open and inclusive, and we need to continuously identify and address issues that are important to MAPPS members.

Bryan Logan, a past President of MAPPS, is the person who recruited me into the association a number of years ago. He used to say “a rising tide lifts all boats”. That precisely describes MAPPS.  I want everyone involved in making the private sector geospatial community a better market for our firms, our employees, our clients, and our Nation.

There is a slogan that I will use for MAPPS that captures this concept --- “MAPPS members do big things in the profession … and FOR the profession.”

This organization is about getting AND giving back. In addition to inclusion, I also want to focus on retention. With mergers and acquisitions, the economic downturn and other factors, we lose some member firms each year. Our retention is in the norm for trade associations, but we need to develop a value proposition to not only recruit new members, but keep the members we have. One way to do that is to engage our members between and in addition to our conferences. While face-to-face meetings at conferences are productive and important, they are not the only means of engaging our members. I want to increase the use of the "wall" on our website, the blog, and conference calls in between conferences to include the membership and provide more value in order to retain members.

We’re all in this together. I look forward to working with everyone in the membership to build that better community.


Susan Marlow

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MAPPS President Reflects on Future Task Force Findings

Posted By Jeff Lower, Tuesday, July 07, 2015

The MAPPS Board of Directors spends a lot of time planning the programs, policies and activities of the association. Our goal is always to make certain MAPPS is providing value to its member firms and is responsive to the needs of the members.

As stated in our Strategic Plan, the MAPPS Mission Statement is "To promote the geospatial business and professionalism in its practice.”

Our Value Statement provides “The foundation of MAPPS as the premier association of private sector firms in the contemporary geospatial profession rests on an essential set of core values that define, inform, and guide our professional practice. These values reflect the history and ongoing development of the profession and have been advanced, expanded, and refined by numerous public policy positions and internal operational activities of MAPPS. Among these are:

♦ Provide an opportunity for networking and information sharing among and between member firm principals, owners, partners and senior executives.

♦ Facilitate cooperative working relationship among firms in the marketplace and competition in the free market based on mutual respect and professionalism within applicable laws.

♦ Promote education and lifelong learning.

♦ Promote a strong, vibrant and capable market of private geospatial firms in the economy and the provision of services, data and products to government agencies at all levels.

♦ Expand the economic opportunity for member firms.

♦ Promote professionalism and ethical conduct by members.  

♦ Provide service to the profession, its clients and the general public.

♦ Encourage social responsibility in the provision of geospatial services, data and products to improve the quality of life of all citizens and solve societal problems.”

Late last year, I appointed a Task Force on the Future of MAPPS. Given his longstanding active participation in MAPPS and his recent retirement, Pat Olson, former CEO of Quantum Spatial, was appointed as chair. Each of the other 11 members of the task force is under the age of 45. I intentionally wanted individuals who represent the future of MAPPS to look at the association they want over the coming years. Its charge was to “give the Board of Directors an unvarnished outside assessment of where MAPPS is and where it should go.” The task force had carte blanche authority to look at every aspect of the association. Nothing was off the table.

The task force report and recommendations were presented to, and discussed with, the Board. Over the past six months, the Board has been reviewing the report and considering actions to implement.

First and foremost, the task force reported that our summer and winter conferences are too long and too expensive for a segment of the membership to attend. It was recommended that the program for the winter conference be shortened but more intense, and that it be held in a city and at a venue that is more affordable. The Board is heeding that call and implementing a revision to the winter conference, beginning in 2016. While a date and venue are being researched, I can report that we will host a 4-day conference in Las Vegas, likely in early February. We will provide more details in the coming weeks.

Second, the task force said there are too many conferences to attend and that partnering with other organizations would provide a desired efficiency. That was confirmed this past April when MAPPS and NSPS hosted a joint national conference in Crystal City/Arlington, VA that included the traditional MAPPS Federal Programs Conference with its Federal agency briefings and day on Capitol Hill. MAPPS and NSPS have agreed to co-host this conference again in 2016.

Rather than hosting an independent Fall Policy Conference, the task force recommended that MAPPS partner with other, existing conferences when it is appropriate to do so. As a result, rather than a stand-alone fall conference, MAPPS will provide the geospatial program content at the Drone World Expo in San Jose, California on November 17-18.

The Board also revised the MAPPS dues structure to assess firms based on its geospatial workforce, not its total workforce, as suggested by the task force.

These are just a few of the task force recommendations the Board has already implemented. More improvements are being put into action and others are still to come. We will continue to study the task force recommendations and develop ways to evolve MAPPS in response to these proposals, and others, including ideas from the membership at large.

The MAPPS Board is here to serve you. Please do not hesitate to call or email a Board member, or see us at our conferences.

As my term as President comes to an end, I want to thank the members for their words of encouragement, constructive comments, and contributions to our association and our profession. MAPPS members do big things in the profession...and for the profession. Let’s keep it that way.

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Call for Comments on Export Control Reform Rule

Posted By John Palatiello, Friday, June 26, 2015

The U.S. Departments of Commerce and State have proposed regulations that affect export controls on certain products, specifically certain LiDAR, aerial imaging, and positioning systems.  These controls will make it more difficult for U.S. manufacturers to sell their systems to customers in other countries and U.S. service firms to deploy their instruments and systems in other countries for use on overseas projects.

Earlier this month MAPPS convened a conference call where it was agreed the association will submit comments on the Export Control Reform rule. Don Carswell of TeledyneOptech, chair of the MAPPS Associate Members Committee, has taken the lead in researching and analyzing the proposed rules and their implications for MAPPS firms.

His findings indicate the proposed rules seek to simplify and clarify section 12, but not expand its reach to new classes of instruments. For example, under the reforms if the ITAR rule applies to an instrument, it applies to both a manufacturer selling an instrument to an overseas customer, as well as a service firm seeking to deploy an instrument for its own use in a foreign country.

MAPPS member Fugro has gone through the approval process on its GeoSAR instrument. It requires considerable paperwork, and about a 30 day approval period. Harris has had a similar experience, with a 4-6 week turnaround on an application.

ITAR rules apply regardless of the country the instrument is going to, except that there are certain export bans (Cuba, Iran, North Korea, etc) and a simpler process for some allied countries, particularly Canada. Currently, there are temporary (service firms for a project, with the instrument promptly coming back to the U.S.) and permanent (sale of an item, with no expected return) licenses.

Several recommendations are being considered for the MAPPS comment. MAPPS is considering a petition for an exemption. It’s been suggested that MAPPS should seek a "dual use" (military and non-military) classification. As the rule stands now, Optech believes its LiDAR instruments are not subject to ITAR provisions, but its IMU is. If the rule is modified, a non-ITAR instrument could be subject to ITAR rules.

While many instruments used in geospatial applications are not covered under the current rule, LiDAR, imagery, positioning and UAV are all mentioned in the propose rule. Members should read the rule carefully to determine the extent of coverage to instruments used.

TeledyneOptech has drafted comments regarding USML Category XII and ITAR Category XII.

MAPPS is seeking further comments from members. Comments should provide specific recommendations for language, including revisions or alternatives. 

The deadline for comments is July 2.  Please provide your input and feedback to me, with copies to and

 Attached Files:

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In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity

Posted By John Palatiello, Tuesday, June 02, 2015

There were three announcements from Washington, DC last week of which MAPPS members should take note.  Each was policy news that not only has national implications, but may create significant demand for geospatial data, and consequently, new demand for MAPPS member firms’ products and services.

The first was a sage grouse conservation plan.  Mapping of threatened or endangered species was one of the issues MAPPS Director Brian Raber (Merrick, Greenwood Village, CO) discussed in testimony before a Congressional field hearing in Colorado Springs, CO in 2012.  He noted at the time, that geospatial data contributes to “protecting wetlands and habitat in the central waterfowl flyway, and increasing the productivity of agricultural land.”

When asked about the new sage grouse plan Raber said, “The sage grouse habitat has been intensely studied by the federal government, universities, NGO’s and private companies over the past five years using many different types of geospatial data and modeling techniques. Merrick was involved with one such project that was awarded by the Department of Energy for approximately 120 sq mi in the Power River Basin. The Beaver Creek project combined LiDAR, color aerial photography and hyperspectral imagery as a basis for habitat assessment. This is a similar multi-sensor configuration that Merrick has used for other endangered species and plant habitat such as the bald eagle on the Missouri River, Blue Oak in California, and Kirtland’s warbler in the Bahamas. Our data was used by geologists, wild lands planners, and hydrographers to study these sites to determine impacts on the sage grouse in this coal mining region.  There have been, and will be, growing opportunities for the geospatial community specific to the sage grouse, however, stakeholders should rely first on two very mature programs to obtain four-band imagery and LiDAR. These programs are obviously the National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP), and 3D Elevation Program (3DEP). Moreover, multispectral satellite and hyperspectral imagery supplement LiDAR and four-band for additional scientific and geospatial analysis.”

When Raber, MAPPS Government Affairs Manager John “JB” Byrd and I recently met with Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), the Congressman specifically asked how geospatial data can help resolve the Sage Grouse issue, which threatens land use and economic activity in numerous Western states.

Second, the EPA, in conjunction with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, issued the federal government’s final rule on “Waters of the U.S.” under the Clean Water Act.  This regulation is controversial, and Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike may block its implementation. This too could have significant land use implications, as noted by groups such as the National Association of Counties and the American Society of Civil Engineers.

“The recently announced ‘Waters of the U.S.’ rule provides MAPPS members with various, additional business opportunities,” said Mark Brooks, Magnolia River, Huntsville, AL, chair of the MAPPS Emerging Markets/Emerging Technologies Forum.  “These opportunities include the surveying and mapping of elevation data required to define navigable waterways and their tributaries, along with any physical and measureable nearby waters. LiDAR and bare earth models are specifically noted in the rule as being useful in the identification of ordinary high water marks for tributaries. Further, the positional accuracy of “adjacent” and “neighboring” waters, as defined by the rule, will need to be determined due to the importance of location in reference to traditional navigable waters.”

Finally, the Washington Post  reported the Department of Housing and Urban Development settled with the largest bank headquartered in Wisconsin over claims that it discriminated against black and Hispanic borrowers in Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota. HUD called the settlement "one of the largest redlining complaints" ever brought by the federal government against a mortgage lender. “Redlining” was the reason Congress enacted the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) in 1975. HMDA only collects data on a Census tract level, so MAPPS was a leader in 2010 to include a HMDA amendment in the Dodd-Frank financial services reform legislation to authorize mortgage data collection at the parcel level. The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is charged with implementing the law, and has not yet acted on the parcel provision, notwithstanding advocacy by MAPPS.

Susan Marlow, Stantec, Nashville, TN, MAPPS President-Elect and Chair of our Cadastre Task Force, was a member of the 2007 National Research Council (NRC) study on "National Land Parcel Data." She said there is a business “opportunity to aggregate data from the local system to the State or the state to the federal level.”  She also noted a demand for “data normalization and addition of metadata where it is missing or inaccurate.”  The HUD settlement on redlining is significant, according to Marlow, inasmuch as the NRC “report notes that the origination of a parcel database starts at the local level where the transactions are based. The vision would be to have the local data aggregated to a designated state agency and that state agency would supply the data to the national designated party. This is happening successfully in many states including Maryland, Tennessee, Indiana, and about a dozen others.”  However, “there is no federal agency (HUD, BLM, CFPB) stepping to the plate to take the lead for the national database,” Marlow said.

MAPPS member firm principals responsible for planning, business development, and new markets should take note and keep an eye on developments in these three areas.

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MAPPS 3DEP Initiative Moves Ahead

Posted By John Palatiello, Monday, May 04, 2015

MAPPS is spear-heading a campaign to promote to Congress the need to fund the 3DEP program in the Appropriations process.

We launched a specific website in support of 3DEP -

We published a "coffee table book" on 3DEP and LiDAR (see digital version). I will be happy to provide you a printed, hard copy.

We ran an advertisement in "The Hill" on April 14 and 15. (scroll down)

More than 120 surveying and mapping professionals visited Congress on April 15 to advocate for 3DEP during a national conference.  Here is the issue paper that was presented to more than 80 Senators and 125 members of the House.

MAPPS hosted a 3DEP stakeholder forum of interested Federal agencies and non-Federal interested parties.

We are assembling a broad coalition of organizations in support of 3DEP.

Interest in LiDAR is also catching on at the state level.  Legislation was recently enacted in Washington State to expand LiDAR coverage, as a result of the Oso, WA landslide.

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MAPPS Best Practices on Privacy of Geospatial Data

Posted By John Palatiello, Friday, May 01, 2015

Comments due to MAPPS by May 15.

Recent legislative and regulatory efforts to protect consumers and citizens, in the name of “privacy”, have cast a wide net creating unintended consequences for mapping and geospatial firms. Geospatial data is derived from images and data collected from a variety of airborne and space borne platforms, as well as other mobile and terrestrial-based acquisition systems. This imagery and data is regularly and historically collected, utilized and applied in geographic information systems (GIS) by companies engaged in free market commerce and by government authorities operating within the safeguards, rights and framework established by the Fourth and Fourteenth amendments to the Constitution of the United States.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) proposed to protect the privacy of individual citizens’ "sensitive” data, including "precise geolocation data” that included, for example, an address. However, FTC did not define the term "precise geolocation data” and a report recommended that before any firm could collect, store, or use such data, it would be required to "provide prominent disclosures and obtain affirmative express consent before using consumer data in a materially different manner than claimed when the data was collected...". While the surveying, mapping and geospatial community generally, and MAPPS members particularly, provided substantial comments on the first draft of the FTC report, in March 2012, the FTC final report, “Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change”, provided only a single footnote to address the geospatial community’s concerns. It said:


"With respect to use of geolocation data for mapping, surveying or similar purposes, if the data cannot reasonably be linked to a specific consumer, computer, or device, a company collecting or using the data would not need to provide a consumer choice mechanism. Similarly, if a company takes reasonable measures to de-identify smart grid data and takes the other steps outlined above, the company would not be obligated to obtain consent before collecting or using the data.”


In the report, the FTC went on to note “the Commission calls on individual companies, trade associations, and self-regulatory bodies to adopt the principles contained in the final privacy framework, to the extent they have not already done so.”

In an effort to establish best practices, principles and a self-regulatory framework for its member firms, a MAPPS task force led by President-Elect Susan Marlow (Stantec, Nashville, TN) has drafted guide to meet the FTC’s challenge.  The following was presented to the MAPPS membership for review and comment earlier this year.  This draft has been reviewed by the MAPPS Board of Directors and approved in principle, pending final review and comment by the membership:

MAPPS, is the only national association of firms in the surveying, spatial data and geographic information systems field in the United States. MAPPS member firms are engaged in surveying, photogrammetry, satellite and airborne remote sensing, aerial photography, hydrography, aerial and satellite image processing, GPS and GIS data collection and conversion services. Our associate members include firms that provide products and services to our member firms, as well as other firms world-wide.

MAPPS member firms conduct their business in accordance with high ethical, moral and legal standards, efficiently, in good faith, and in the best interests of their respective companies, their employees, shareholders and other related stakeholders.  MAPPS member firms maintain business practice standards that earn the respect of everyone with whom the companies conduct business.  MAPPS member firms are a part of the geospatial profession that provides geospatial products and services to a broad range of markets.

Geospatial information plays an important role in our society.  Almost all human activities and decisions have a geospatial component.  In general, the value of personal information increases when it is connected to a location.  All kinds of personal information can be connected to a geospatial location such as financial data, health data, and other consumer behavioral data.  With the rapid technological development and wide uptake of smart mobile devices a whole new category of location based services is developing. 

The phrase “precise geolocation information” is becoming a part of many legislative actions.  The word “precise” may be misleading and if left undefined will wreak havoc in the geospatial community. Most importantly, a clear and concise definition will protect the public’s well-being and safety by enabling citizens and consumers access to data, devices, and location based services such as E-911, electronic lost and found, and navigation. The term should be defined to accomplish the actual goals of the legislation and not result in unintended consequences such as thwarting legitimate and desired business activities or denying consumers the products, technologies, and services they are demanding in the marketplace.  The purpose of most of the legislation is to protect personal and private information of individuals that have not given consent to collect such information.  This policy is intended to define the best practices for protecting personal privacy when collecting geospatial data. 

There should be a distinction between the term “precise geospatial information” and “precise personal geospatial information”. 

MAPPS recognizes and agrees that everyone has the right to protect their personal data.  Personal data should only be gathered legally under strict conditions, for a legitimate purpose. Furthermore, persons or organizations which collect and manage personal information should protect it from misuse and should respect certain rights of the data owners.

Individuals regularly disclose personal information such as their names, photographs, telephone numbers, birth date, and address while engaged in a whole range of everyday activities. This personal data may be collected and processed for a wide variety of legitimate purposes such as business transactions, joining clubs, applying for a job, and so on.  Also, when purchasing devices with GPS technology, such as smart phones, individuals typically agree to share their location.  Sharing your location can provide an enormous amount of personal information about your habits and behavior. 

When should a company obtain individual consent when collecting geospatial data?

Any information about the location and shape of, and the relationships among, geographic features, including remotely sensed and map data.


Any graphical or digital data depicting natural or manmade physical features, phenomena, or boundaries of the earth and any information related thereto, including surveys, maps, charts, remote sensing data, and images.


Collection, storage, retrieval, or dissemination of graphical or digital data to depict natural or manmade physical features, phenomena, or boundaries of the earth and any information related to such data, including any such data that comprises a survey, map, chart, geographic information system, remotely sensed image or data, or an aerial photograph by surveyors, photogrammetrists, hydrographers, geodesists, cartographers, or other such mapping and geospatial professionals.


Data originating from commercial satellite systems licensed to operate by the U.S. government, global positioning systems, geographic information systems, and airborne or terrestrial mapping equipment. 



Collection, storage, retrieval or aggregation of information about an individual that is publically available such as legal information found in deeds, property records, and property maps


Personal information about an individual’s real time geospatial location


Personal information that is protected under law such as health and employment information. 


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MAPPS Webinar on Cybersecurity

Posted By Beth Hawley, Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Cyber-attacks represent increasingly dangerous and consequential threats facing businesses. As our reliance on information technology steadily grows, our digital infrastructure remains vulnerable to the mounting intrusions by independent cybercriminals and state-sponsored operations. This puts almost all aspects of American life, and our firms, at risk.

U.S. computer networks have already sustained numerous high-level security breaches, including the hack of Sony Pictures last fall. These intrusions have cost American businesses hundreds of millions of dollars, while giving foreign entities access to sensitive intellectual property.

To help MAPPS member firms understand and address this growing threat, we are hosting a webinar on how to secure your cyber network and prevent data breaches.

Also, you will learn about new requirements imposed on Federal contractors to enhance cyber security.

Join us as Robert Dix, VP of Global Government Affairs and Public Policy for Juniper Networks, and Rebecca Lawson, Senior Director of Product Marketing for Juniper Networks, lead a conversation about how the market is delivering innovation to address the cybersecurity challenge and how you can help in the adoption of best practices and technologies to reduce the risk of cyber intrusions in your own environment.

You'll leave with:

  • A better understanding of the policy and technical elements of cybersecurity risk management;
  • A look at innovations to address the cybersecurity challenge that are coming down the pike;
  • Instructions on how you can help in the adoption of best practices and technologies to reduce the risk of cyber intrusions in your own environment.

The webinar is Thursday, April 30 at 2:00 PM EDT.

For further information and to register, click here.

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MAPPS Discusses UAS at Small Business Administration

Posted By Beth Hawley, Friday, April 10, 2015

At the urging of MAPPS, the Small Business Administration, Office of Advocacy, hosted a roundtable meeting to discuss the Federal Aviation Administration’s notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) on April 9.

MAPPS Executive Director John Palatiello was invited to be the spokesman for small business.  He was joined by FAA Assistant General Counsel Mark Bury (see Bury.FAASmall UAS attachment below) in presentations on the proposed rules, with an emphasis on its affect on small business.  Mr. Palatiello presented (see JMP MAPPS SBA UAS attachment below) an overview of the geospatial profession and comments on UAS and the rules.

A MAPPS task force is drafting the association’s comments on the NPRM. This will soon be shared with the membership. Comments on FAA’s proposed rule are due to FAA by Friday, April 24, 20015.

 Attached Files:

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MAPPS Minute

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, February 24, 2015

MAPPS Minute for February 24, 2015

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MAPPS Continues to be Active on UAS

Posted By John Palatiello, Monday, February 23, 2015

As I am sure you are aware, earlier last week, the Federal Aviation Administration issued its long-awaited notice of proposed rulemaking on commercial unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

For the benefit of MAPPS members, our Special Aviation Counsel, Gregory Winton, Esq., has prepared a memorandum that summarizes and analyzes the proposed rule and provides information on filing comments with the FAA. All MAPPS members are encouraged to submit comments.

Additionally, MAPPS released a public statement regarding the proposed rule.

I hope this information is helpful. Given the transformative impact UAS will have on the geospatial community, MAPPS has been engaged in issues on this matter for more than six years. And, we will be providing the most comprehensive information and education anywhere in the geospatial community at the Drone World Expo in San Jose, California on November 17-18.


John M. Palatiello
MAPPS Executive Director

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