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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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U.S. House subcommittee to examine private sector utilization

Posted By MAPPS, Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Action will take place in Congress this week on another issue MAPPS and NSPS members brought to Capitol Hill during the organizations’ joint conference on March 16.  A subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives “will examine the impact on the private sector from the deceased use of public-private competition in sourcing government products and services.  The hearing will also examine best practices for encouraging a more robust utilization of commercially available products and services to increase government efficiency while decreasing costs.”  Among the invited witnesses is MAPPS Executive Director John Palatiello, who also serves as President of the Business Coalition for Fair Competition (BCFC), of which MAPPS is a member.  MAPPS has advocated before Congress that “a positive public-private partnership model is needed so that there are clearly defined roles and responsibilities to provide synergy  between  the  public  and  private  sectors  in  the  Federal  level,  and  particularly  with  regard  to  geospatial  activities.”  The association said, “There  is  a  need  and  role  for  government  in  surveying,  mapping  and  geospatial  activities.   Agency personnel should be focused on inherently  governmental  activities  such  as  enforcement  of  standards  and  specifications,  development  of requirements,  coordination,  and  administering  contracts.  Commercial  activities,  including  data  acquisition,  processing,  applications, and value added services should be left to the qualified, competent and capable private sector in surveying and mapping.” The hearing will include a review of the “Freedom from Government Competition Act”, H.R. 2044/S. 1116, introduced by Representative John J. “Jimmy” Duncan, Jr.  (R-TN) and Senator John  Thune  (R-SD) to  codify  the  “Yellow  Pages”  test,  applied  by  Mayors  and  Governors,  both  Democrat  and  Republican,  that  says  if  you  can  find  private  sector  firms  in  the  Yellow  Pages  providing  products  or  services  that  the  government  is  also  providing,  then  the  service  should  be  subject  to  market  competition  to break  up  the  government  monopoly  and  prove  a  better  value  to  the  taxpayer.  This bill will not only make government more efficient, saving more than $27 billion annually, but improve the quality of services and focus the Federal workforce on high priority governmental functions.  The hearing is on Friday, July 8 at 9:00 AM EDT and can be viewed on-line via the website of the full House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Tags:  Geospatial  private sector  public-private 

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Summit to Outline Steps for a National Parcel System

Posted By MAPPS, Friday, June 17, 2016

Reston, VA – MAPPS, the association of private sector geospatial firms, today announced it is participating in a national summit to develop a strategy to establish a National Parcel System of interoperable land ownership data.


“Since the first National Research Council study in 1980, a national “cadastre” or parcel system has been deemed desirable and feasible, but has lacked organizational and institutional leadership at the Federal level’ said Susan Marlow of Stantec, President of MAPPS.  “In 2007, I was honored to serve on the National Research Council study, National Land Parcel Data: A Vision for the Future. Today’s summit will focus on an action plan to implement the NRC recommendations and make a national system a reality.” 


The summit is being hosted by the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) and its Homeland Infrastructure Foundation - Level Data (HIFLD) Subcommittee, along with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  More than 120 experts from Federal, state and local government, private companies, and nonprofit organizations are meeting at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) headquarters in Reston, VA to develop the parcel strategy.


“MAPPS is pleased to be a partner with the summit’s hosts.  A parcel system has been a MAPPS public policy goal for many years, thanks to the longstanding leadership of Ms. Marlow.  Were optimistic today’s session will result in actions that will finally result in a parcel system that will assisting with economic development, housing, homeland security, land management, and dozens of other government and commercial activities,” said John Palatiello, MAPPS Executive Director.


Support for the summit was provided by these firms: Esri, Digital Map Products, CoreLogic, Stantec, OptimalGEO, The Sidwell Company, and Boundary Solutions, Inc.

 Attached Thumbnails:

Tags:  parcel  parcels  reston  summit 

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Parcel Summit

Posted By MAPPS, Wednesday, May 25, 2016

MAPPS, in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Homeland Infrastructure Foundation - Level Data (HIFLD) Subcommittee of the Federal Geographic Data Committee, is hosting a National Parcel Data Summit.

If you have a business or professional interest in a National Parcel System, your participation is invited.

This one-day event will be held on Friday, June 17 at USGS headquarters in Reston, VA.

This meeting will focus on how to successfully build a national-level parcel database in the context of 1) the current state of parcel data holdings and 2) the need for a Federal champion to ensure new progress. We will hold a series of facilitated discussions to generate an in-depth understanding of parcel data needs, requirements, and access challenges. We look forward to your participation!  In particular, we will look at needs, current conditions, a lessons-learned review of past efforts, and development of next steps and an action plan to make a National Parcel System a reality.

WHAT: National Parcel Data Summit

WHEN: Friday, June 17,  2016 from 8:00 am  to 5:00 pm

WHERE: USGS Headquarters in Reston, VA

12201 Sunrise Valley Dr, Reston, VA 20192


Summit Details:
• This event is entirely unclassified.
• There is no cost to attend the meeting, but advanced registration is required for security purposes. Attendees should register by Wednesday, June 15.
• No refreshments will be provided. The USGS National Center has an onsite cafeteria and convenience store. No food/drink will be allowed in the main auditorium.


MAPPS is securing sponsors for this event.  If your firm desires exposure in from of about 100 of the nation’s leading decision makers on parcel data at the federal, state, local, tribal government level, and the commercial sector, a limited number of sponsorships are available.  Click here to view the options and to sign up to be a sponsor.

If you wish to attend the Summit, please let me know ASAP.  Email me at


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Posted By MAPPS, Wednesday, April 20, 2016


Have you ever heard Mark Twain’s comment about the weather?  “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it,” he said.


The same could be said about parcel data.


After the mortgage crisis hit the U.S. and global economy, the Federal government hosted a land parcel data stakeholder meeting in 2009.


The only major outcome of that meeting was action by MAPPS.  We successfully lobbied for language in the Dodd-Frank financial services reform bill to add a parcel data collection authorization provision to the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act.


In discussions with Federal agency partners, MAPPS President Susan Marlow, MAPPS Government Affairs Manager John “JB” Byrd and I believe we have the government’s attention once again.


Action is needed to make a National Parcel System a reality.  A plan to develop and implement such a parcel system is needed. Leadership from within the Federal agencies is essential.


Interest from MAPPS is being sought.  If you have a concern about parcel data, if these data are important to your firm, or you have expertise in this area, let me know.


Send me an email, and we’ll get you involved.


Tags:  parcels 

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Offshoring Reminder - This blog includes an important reminder and information related to "offshoring"

Posted By John Palatiello, Tuesday, February 09, 2016

One of the greatest benefits of attending a MAPPS conference is the ability to share information, concerns and the latest trends in the market with one’s peers.  It is during coffee breaks, receptions, and networking time that MAPPS members catch up on the latest “scuttlebutt” in the community.

During the 2016 Winter Conference held earlier this month in Henderson, Nevada, there were numerous conversations regarding the resurgence of “offshoring” – sending production work to facilities outside the United States.

When the offshoring phenomena first arose in 2001, MAPPS was involved in a number of activities to educate the membership on issues related to the practice.  Sessions were held at conferences to discuss the benefits and pitfalls, an attorney’s opinion was sought to outline legal requirements and responsibilities, testimony was presented to Congress, a task force was created to study and make recommendations, and a MAPPS policy was adopted by the Board of Directors.

Whether using an independent subcontractor or a U.S.  firm establishing its own facility in a foreign country, there are laws, processes, and ethical considerations that should be noted.  For resources on this practice, visit the offshoring page on the MAPPS website.


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What has MAPPS done for you lately? Watch this video!

Posted By Beth Hawley, Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Presented at the MAPPS Winter Conference in Henderson, NV

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Just How Accurate is Your Drone?

Posted By Mike Tully, Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) continue to influence the profession of remote sensing and mapping like few things ever have. Advances in computer technology, global positioning, and miniaturization have conspired to remove considerable barriers to entry. Many new practitioners are buying drones and providing these services and data for the first time. Much (not all) of the science and art of photogrammetry is now coded on a chip. These advancements enable new practitioners to provide a greater array of services to new and existing markets than ever before and fosters the misperception that “anyone can do it”.


New practitioners of drone-based remote sensing and mapping need to understand the fundamentals of remote sensing, mapping, photogrammetry. Typical deliverables like orthophotography, digital elevation models (DEM), contours, cross-sections, and 3D models depend on this understanding. Nescience of these fundamentals is certain to cause considerable pain, financial loss and compromises to public safety. This article introduces the fundamentals of positional accuracy to help new practitioners provide these services consistent with professional accuracy standards.


I have talked with several practitioners that did not know what “ground control” was or how to use it to establish positional accuracy. This lack of familiarity is not uncommon among novices. They may not know that positional accuracy requirements are needed, or that they are often assumed by the client. They may not know how to discuss positional accuracy with their clients, nor how to measure the positional accuracy of their data deliverables.


Professionals know that an accurate ortho (or DEM or 3D model) can look identical to an inaccurate one. Both are “pretty” pictures with lots of great detail but one has more intrinsic value for a greater number of uses than the other because it is more accurate.

It matters very little what the drone manufacturer says about the positional accuracy of its products. A combination of factors (and seldom a single factor) affects the positional accuracy of an orthophoto, DEM, or other derivative of remotely sensed data. Poor operation of the best drone can vitiate the positional accuracy of a deliverable. If a drone manufacturer claims their camera is accurate to two pixels for any given ground sample distance (GSD), the resultant positional accuracy for the orthophoto is dependent on each of the following factors. [The list below is not a comprehensive list of error sources but includes the major contributors of error.]

  1. the cameras inherent potential accuracy
  2. the stability of the flight
  3. the quality of the GPS data
  4. the quality of the inertial system (if the drone even uses one),
  5. the quality of the DEM used to make the orthophoto, and
  6. the type and quality of processing of the raw imagery into an orthophoto (this factor alone has several important sources of error from a “raw” to “finished” deliverable)
  7. the number and quality of ground control points

Each factor contributes some error to the ultimate positional accuracy of the final deliverable. The sum of all errors determines the measurable positional accuracy.


Understanding accuracy and accuracy standards sets your operations apart from others’. The American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) is the major “standards body” for this profession. Their Standards for Geospatial Data reflect the realities of new sensors and digital data. They are “scale- and technology-agnostic”. That is, the standards apply to data produced at any scale using any kind of sensor today or tomorrow. They can be used to measure and report the positional accuracy of geospatial deliverables like orthophotography, DEMs, digital surface models, 3D models, contours, topographic mapping, etc.


Deliverables with good, consistent positional accuracy can be an important differentiator for your drone-based remote sensing business. Unfortunately, a main cost driver of geospatial deliverables is positional accuracy. More accurate data will generally be more

expensive than less accurate data. Profitability is highest when the required accuracy is not “over-engineered” and drives up costs.


What level of positional accuracy is achievable using today’s drone systems? Assuming “best practices” with a drone using a metric camera (most drones do NOT have a metric camera), high quality ground control, and solid production procedures (all difficult to achieve consistently) the best possible accuracy for orthos would have a root mean square error (RMSE) = 1 to 1.5 Pixels (GSD). Are these levels of accuracy achievable flying a drone with a non-metric camera and without any ground control?  Not a chance ... not today!

Because increasing accuracy comes at a premium it is imperative that the practitioner understand what accuracy is achievable from their drone “system”, what the client expects, and what is needed (this is often at odds with client expectations) to meet the deliverable's intended use. Because quality remote sensing data and services are difficult to deliver and need considerable expertise that is not yet programmed into the “easy button” many drone fliers are choosing to collect data and have established firms produce positionally accurate, irrefragable geospatial deliverables.

Mike Tully, Aerial Services, Inc., Cedar Falls, IA

Tags:  Drones  reality-check 

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Omnibus Appropriations Bill Focuses on Geospatial Contracting

Posted By Administration, Friday, January 08, 2016
MAPPS Government Affairs Manager John "JB" Byrd has prepared a summary of key provisions in the Fiscal Year 2016 “omnibus” appropriations bill. Public Law 114-113 was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama on December 18 to fund and keep the government running through September 30. This summary focuses on particular areas of interest in geospatial, including surveying and mapping; architecture & engineering; procurement, privatization and contracting out; and government reform. All subdivisions of the House-Senate conference agreements are on the House Rules Committee website. The respective House and Senate Appropriations Committee reports should also be reviewed when researching budgets and program provisions, as items included or discussed therein could provide guidance that agencies will follow in FY16 implementation.

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MAPPS Minute for December 18, 2015

Posted By Beth Hawley, Friday, December 18, 2015

MAPPS Minute for December 18, 2015

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MAPPS Minute for Monday, December 14, 2015

Posted By Beth Hawley, Monday, December 14, 2015

MAPPS Minute for December 14, 2015

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