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MAPPS Leadership on UAS

Posted By John Palatiello, Tuesday, November 10, 2015

In my 30+ year involvement with the surveying and mapping profession, I have never witnessed as revolutionary a technological or business transformation as we are currently experiencing with unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).  It is a “game changer” like no other I’ve seen.

I am proud of the fact that MAPPS has been a leading voice for the commercial use of UAS for geospatial data acquisition.

The association has been engaged with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on UAS issues since 2008 and has hosted FAA at various MAPPS events for nearly 8 years to keep the membership engaged and informed, as well as to assist members in efforts to engage in research, development, testing and evaluation as firms prepare to operate UAS to serve their clients.

That is why it is gratifying, and significant, that the FAA invited MAPPS to participate in the UAS Registration Task Force (RTF) Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) announced last week by Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

MAPPS President Susan Marlow has appointed John Perry, Founder and CEO of Altavian of Gainesville, FL, to represent the association on the task force.  "We are pleased and honored that the FAA has invited MAPPS to participate in the UAS RTF ARC," said Ms. Marlow. "MAPPS has actively called on the FAA to move forward with UAS rulemaking, and we are thrilled to be a part of the process."

The FAA has also issued a request for information regarding registration of UAS.  Please review this document and respond as appropriate.

MAPPS has also testified before state legislatures and participated in Congressional roundtables on UAS policy. I was selected to represent MAPPS on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) working group on beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations of commercial unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).  Through the MAPPS Aviation Legal Services Plan, numerous MAPPS members firms were assisted by our Aviation Counsel, Greg Winton, in securing their own Section 333 permits to operate.

Unfortunately, there has been onerous and potentially harmful legislation proposed in numerous state legislatures that would inhibit the use of UAS for legitimate operations, including the many societal benefits of deploying a commercial UAS for geospatial applications. In order to tell the positive story about our profession and its use of UAS, and to prevent such ill conceived legislation, MAPPS accepted  an invitation to serve on a committee of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), the NCSL Partnership on UAS.  This group is developing policy recommendations to the 50 state legislatures on unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

The fee for MAPPS to join was $17,500. To date, MAPPS members generosity reached a third of this goal. We are asking MAPPS members to contribute a little more so that we may continue to participate in this very important activity. This activity will not only save money for MAPPS members by impacting all 50 state legislatures at once instead of a more expensive piecemeal approach, but it will reduce the likelihood of your firm having to comply with 50 different UAS laws, one in each state.  This is a benefit to MAPPS Regular Member Firms who will be providing data acquisition services, as well as Associate Member Firms who provide hardware, sensors, aircraft, software, integration, and related products.

At the MAPPS 2015 Summer Conference in July, NCSL's Doug Shinkle participated on a MAPPS panel discussion featuring FAA's policies and provided the following PowerPoint about the importance and benefits of the special committee.

This special committee has already given us a seat at the table, and will continue to for the next several months as policy recommendations are written that will enable, rather than over-regulate, the business opportunities UAVs will provide to our community. To contribute, please click here.

The MAPPS membership is already seeing the results of the association’s leadership.  For example, 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 helping to lead the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)  stakeholder working group on UAS and privacy; 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 engage a question and answer session on UAS with the Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

The NTIA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, was tasked by President Obama to study the privacy, transparency, and accountability issues regarding commercial and private use of UAS. In addition to MAPPS submitting a public comment to NTIA earlier this year, we took the lead over the past month compiling the first ever resource repository of "positive societal benefits" of UAS. This document cited public comments, testimony, issue papers, and reports produced by fifteen organizations and trade associations, including MAPPS, and at least one state legislature (Wisconsin) that promoted the positive societal benefits of UAS utilization by private sector geospatial firms.

The value of this activity to MAPPS members was aligning as many of the groups connected to promoting the "positive societal benefits" theme thereby leveraging a coalition to help with the goals of the private sector geospatial community in opening up public airspace for the safe operation of UAS for commercial use by surveying, mapping and geospatial firms, while also nullifying the opposition to UAS utilization based on privacy concerns. Without this MAPPS-led effort, no such document would exist thereby empowering the privacy concern opposition. At the October 21 NTIA Stakeholder meeting, MAPPS Government Affairs Manager John "JB" Byrd formally provided a report on this document to over 40 leading stakeholders in Washington, DC including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and U.S. DOT legal team, among other Federal agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and NTIA. This has increased national and opinion leader awareness of and appreciation for private sector geospatial firms.

A reminder that on November 17-18, MAPPS will host sessions on geospatial activities at Drone World Expo, at the San Jose Convention Center in San Jose, California. The geospatial content will explore factors to consider when planning the start-up of a stand-alone UAS business, or a department in an existing surveying or mapping firm. It will kick off with a presentation on What You Need to Know Before Starting Up Your Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Department, as well as instruction on issues including system operating limitations, flight training, crew responsibilities, operator authority, client expectations, standards and licensing. Speakers at the Policy Conference will include Bryan Baker, UAS Sales Manager, Leica Geosystems; Jeff Lovin, Senior Vice President, Director of Geospatial Services, Woolpert; Andy Nickerson of Aerovel Corp.; Mike Tully, President, Aerial Services, Inc.; and David Yoel, CEO, American Aerospace, Inc.

While MAPPS has been able to participate in many of these activities through our normal budget process, others are extraordinary in nature.  Please support the NCSL Partnership and the MAPPS Aviation Legal Services Plan.

Your financial support for the NCSL Partnership is critically needed.  To contribute, please click here.

It is also essential that firms support the Aviation Legal Services Plan, please click here.


John Palatiello

Executive Director

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