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 the 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 Reform Act of 2012 that established authorizations and directives to the FAA on safe commercial UAV integration in U.S. airspace.
MAPPS accepted an invitation to become a member of a special 1-time, 1-year committee of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) to develop policy recommendations to the 50 state legislatures on unmanned aerial systems (UAS).
During the MAPPS 2015 Summer Conference in Oregon, NCSL's Doug Shinkle participated in a MAPPS panel discussion featuring FAA's policies and provided the following PowerPoint about the importance and benefits of the special committee.
MAPPS members are already seeing the results of having MAPPS as an active participant. For a few examples of the value created by the MAPPS participation, consider that MAPPS was appointed to the FAA's Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) to advise on beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) policy and regulations for UAS; hosted the FAA's Jim Williams to provide keynote remarks during the initial National Surveying and Mapping Conference in April 2015; presented before SBA's Office of Advocacy and the FAA on the regulatory burden of FAA's NPRM on commercial utilization on sUAS in domestic airspace; submitted comments to the FAA's NPRM on commercial UAS in April 2015; submitted comments to NTIA's focus on UAS privacy in April 2015; is currently attending the NTIA's stakeholder session on UAS; and testified at numerous state legislatures' activities. Additionally, MAPPS was able to work with members of Congress on an amendment concerning UAS use by Federal agencies, and engaged a question and answer session on UAS with the Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.