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A Plan to Integrate Drones Safely into the National Airspace Today

Posted By Mike Tully, Friday, January 2, 2015

Today anyone can strap wings on a pig, stick a GPS on its ear, call it a drone and go fly it. Of course, they have to fly it secretly, under the radar, because most uses are still prohibited by the FAA. In the current regulatory environment promulgated by the FAA and frustrating the nation, there are few regulations that positively promote the safe operation of small UAS (sUAS). An outright ban does nothing to positively promote safety. Manufacturing standards, for example, are needed now. I could fly a pig! Commercial uses must be allowed now.

The safety of the National Airspace System (NAS) is being increasingly compromised even though virtually no one can legally fly drones. For example, drone sales are at record levels this holiday season. Most of these drones are being sold to people unfamiliar with aviation rules and regulations and with little or no knowledge of basic concepts of “safe flying”. There could be well over 50,000 drones aloft in the NAS now and virtually none are registered. Public safety is threatened today precisely because irresponsible drone use is encouraged.

We operate in a regulatory environment devoid of positive rules that promote safety. Current rules simply ban most legitimate uses. But pigs can fly! Drone operators are frustrated with the lack of direction and will fly because they can. This works against public safety. Additionally, there are now reports that there is growing Congressional pressure to marginalize FAA safety experts. Constituents want to green light the commercial operation of drones after enduring years of FAA bureaucratic inefficiencies.

Everyone is frustrated. The system is NOT working. We need not be in this predicament!

A sUAS integration plan is needed that fosters the immediate and safe use of drones in the NAS. We can’t wait for the lethargic FAA bureaucracy to act years from now only to impose restrictive rules that will not make sense to commercial, scientific, and recreational drone use.

I propose a plan here.

But first a disclaimer.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on the NAS and FAA rules, but a system of rules that encourage the safe flying of drones by anyone is needed now. This proposal describes one such system. Experts will find holes in this proposal and I welcome a dialogue that establishes progress.

I offer this plan as starting point of that conversation.

The Plan

First, Congress must recognize that the NAS is “public land”. Like our national parks, access and use is to be encouraged. It must be controlled. It must be safe. But unreasonable restrictions to access and use cannot be made. We can devise a system that responsibly balances access and use with public safety.

Next, Congress should pass legislation today that requires all drones sold in the United States adhere to basic standards of design, manufacture and safety. The aircraft must be comprised of materials and components compliant with safety standards. For example, the sUAS must be made of lightweight material and wings or rotors that will break off on impact. Rotors must be encased in some kind of protective shield so they cannot injure operators or the public. Or, better yet, certain aircraft (heavier, more lethal) are licensed to operate only in rural areas where the threat to people and property is less.

Operator License

A drone cannot be flown in the NAS without its operator being licensed. This license would not be a “pilot’s license”. Much like a driver’s license, a new class of sUAS license is established that simply affirms the operator has some basic understanding of aviation safety and operating in the NAS. Even more like a driver’s license, it must be renewed periodically and should require passing a standardized test.

All drones, like automobiles, must have a unique identification number. This number and the responsible owner/operator is recorded with the mandatory aircraft registration.

All drones must be constructed with GPS and a flight management system. The drone must know where it is at all times and know from where it came and to where it has been programmed to travel. If this system becomes dysfunctional when in operation, the flight management system must instruct the aircraft to land safely.

The Master Restricted Flight Area Database

All drones must be constructed with firmware that incorporates a database of restricted flight areas. The firmware controls the flight of the aircraft and would prevent the operator flying the drone into these restricted areas. These systems would be designed so any attempt to bypass them would be difficult and traceable. This would deter tampering for the majority of users.

Some drones are already using similar systems. These systems have all airport locations programmed into their flight management systems to prevent the aircraft from penetrating these restricted areas. This “Master Restricted Flight Area Database” (let’s call it “MrFad”) would be similar but include any and all restricted flight areas.

All drone flight management systems must require a flight plan to be uploaded to the aircraft before each flight. Flight cannot occur without legitimate instructions that define the time(s) and location(s) the aircraft will operate. Uploaded with the flight plan is the identification of the operator and the registration number of the UAS. Once uploaded the firmware connects to MrFad and updates it with its new flight plan, aircraft identification, and operator ID. This flight plan becomes a new restricted area. Only this drone can operate in this area during the defined time. Simultaneously, the database-embedded firmware is updated with any other flight plans in the operational area. Conflicts with other flight plans are identified and resolved. Or, perhaps it makes sense for MrFad to allow some or all sUAS (but not manned aircraft) to fly in the same area at the same time.

The required cellular technology needed to make the connection to MrFad is inexpensive and lightweight. It should not be a technological or financial burden on drone design or cost. Because this is a key component for safe drone operation, the low additional cost is easily justified. If the drone’s flight management system cannot make a connection to the master database, the firmware will not allow operation in the NAS. Exceptions for operations within 500′ of its base station (lift off location) could be allowed so drones and onboard systems (like cameras, GPS, and lidar sensors) can be tested without filing a legitimate flight plan.

Once MrFad is operational, restricted flight areas of many types and sizes will be continually created and uploaded to MrFad throughout the U.S. Modern communications and database technology can easily support this level of complexity.

All areas within 5 miles of airports will be permanent no-fly zones. Any portion of the NAS above 400′ above ground level will be permanent no-fly zones. One can easily imagine a system whereby an operator can request and be authorized to penetrate non-fly zones by an aviation authority.

But many other different types of restricted airspace can be defined and included in MrFad at any  time. For example, the area around major (or minor) sporting events like football stadiums when filled with people may be defined. Areas around large parades and demonstrations may be defined as no-fly zones. The area around the Kodak Theater during the Academy Awards may be defined by local authorities as no-fly zones for a short time before, during, and after the event. These are good examples of no-fly zones that are transitory in space and time and used to guard the public safety. They define a specific area of “no penetration” but exist only for a defined length of time. When in effect, the drone cannot fly into these areas even if the operator instructs it to do so.

Restricted flight areas could be defined as block areas (a stadium, a quarry, a national forest, or a downtown area) or linear areas (following a pipeline or transportation corridor). All restricted areas will be defined geographically and temporally so they exist and cease to exist within a defined geographic space and time window. A drone operator may be prevented to fly over a crowded soccer field during the game, but could fly over it after the games are over and the people have dispersed, for example. A restricted area could be defined as permanent (The White House), temporary (over demonstrations), or recurring (whenever there is a football game in the stadium).

Important to MrFad is that every sUAS mission uploaded also becomes a no-fly zone for the duration of the flight of that drone. This will prevent drones from flying in the same geographic space at the same time. Special exemptions could be designed in MrFad to accommodate an operator using a swarm of drones in an area. Other exemptions could be designed so emergency management personnel get priority (and exclusive) access.

It is possible that some cities will define their entire metro areas as no-fly zones. This could be perceived as an unfair restriction of a public space. Public policies will need to be established that define who has authorization to declare some public space as a “restricted area”. But this system allows for this type of flexibility. MrFad will record the identify of the person establishing the restricted area, contact information, and affirm they have that authorization. Some types of restricted areas will require higher levels of authorization than others. Non-drone operators, for instance, may require more authorization before they can restrict public airspace. The operator that wants to fly his sUAS over a new subdivision for mapping purposes has a level of authorization as an “UAS operator”. But the Government or Emergency Management Official that wants to define some area as off-limits for some period of time, must have a higher level of authorization to declare the area as restricted and remove it from the public airspace. Public policy can be established that defines what types of geographical areas can be designated as restricted areas and for what periods of time. This will prevent unjust or unwarranted declaration of areas as no-fly zones and ensure the predictability of the NAS and limit the undue restriction of commercial, scientific, and recreational drone operations.

A “for-profit” or “not-for-profit” firm should operate MrFad. The management, maintenance, and control of MrFad need not be a government agency. In fact, it is important that it NOT be a government agency. The federal government’s role is best suited to regulating and overseeing the operation of the MrFad to ensure their standards are sound, reasonable, and safe. Firms exist today in the satellite, aviation, and geospatial fields that could easily manage this national database.

A “UL” for Drones

Much like the Underwriters Laboratories (UL), a new safety consulting and certification company will certify UAS firmware (and aircraft construction and components) as “in compliance” with technical and safety specifications. (Let’s call this the UL-UAS). Much like the UL we are all familiar with, this could be an international standards for-profit or not-for-profit organization. This need not be a government agency. For the same reasons as MrFad, it is important that it NOT be a government agency. The federal government’s role is best suited to regulating and overseeing the operation of the UL-UAS to ensure their standards are sound, reasonable, and safe. Much like electronic goods produced today, without the UL-UAS “seal of approval” the equipment could not legally be sold or flown in the United States. Any operator found to be operating an aircraft without this certification or operating an altered, non-compliant aircraft would be fined or jailed.

Insurance Requirements

Liability insurance must be required for all commerical operators. Any recreational operator using these aircraft in populated areas would also need insurance. The insurance could not be obtained unless the aircraft was certified as UL-UAS approved. The insurance industry is already creating products to mitigate UAS liabilities and additional products will be established.

Keeping Manned Helicopters and Civil Pilots Safe

Manned helicopter and civil aircraft (like agricultural applicators) regularly penetrate this 400′ AGL portion of the NAS which is designated as a “fly zone” for drones. Without some policy changes, the manned systems could collide with drones flying in these areas. These collisions could cause serious harm or death. Therefore, new FAA policy is required so these types of operators are required to file a flight plan defining the geographical and temporal limits of their operations. These are then uploaded into MrFad and become restricted flight areas. Today, these operations are not always required to file detailed flight plans. This must change to ensure that manned and unmanned systems can safely operate in this increasingly congested portion of the NAS.

These proposed rules and systems will enable safe commercial and recreational operations beyond the line of sight within this tiny portion of the national airspace. The plan is needed now to encourage the tremendous economic, scientific and recreational potential of sUAS.

The safe operation of sUAS is possible today with a system similar to the one described here without waiting for affordable sense and avoid technology. Waiting for the slow bureacratic rule-making of the FAA is not needed to establish a safe system.

Is this proposed system absolutely safe? No. There will be accidents. People will violate the rules and operate drones in unsafe, unprofessional, and irresponsible ways. However, good legislation, sound policy, aircraft standards, and insurance instruments will stigmatize and deter the would-be violator. There is some level of acceptable risk with every technology and system. It is impossible to eliminate all risk. This proposed plan balances the responsible, robust use of drones and public safety.

Mike Tully is President and CEO of Aerial Services, Inc. based in Cedar Falls, IA, and a member of the MAPPS Board of Directors.

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UAVs: Others Talk, MAPPS Acts

Posted By John Palatiello, Friday, January 2, 2015

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 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 Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 that established authorizations and directives to the FAA on safe commercial UAV integration in U.S. airspace.

MAPPS has also had meetings with FAA officials. That advocacy resulted in the aerial surveying and mapping community being specifically named in the FAA "Roadmap" as a key constituency and a market whose use of UAV will provide significant economic benefit to the nation. We forged a strategic partnership with AUVSI, the largest UAV organization in the nation. Their government affairs manager has attended MAPPS meetings, and MAPPS was invited to make a presentation before AUVSI’s government affairs committee. MAPPS and AUVSI co-hosted a highly successful webinar on UAV and geospatial applications. With ASPRS, we hosted special UAV programming at our joint specialty technical conference in Tampa, FL in 2012.

At the state level, MAPPS has been a leader in getting lawmakers in state legislatures to recognize that aerial imagery for mapping from UAVs benefits the public and should NOT be part of restrictions on future UAV use. We affected legislation in several states.

Through the MAPPS Legal Aviation Plan, we met with FAA to find an efficient way to get commercial aerial survey UAVs in operation. Those efforts played a role in two MAPPS member firms recently being among the first to obtain section 333 exemptions.

 MAPPS is a member of the National Conference of State Legislatures partnership on UAV, developing policy that recognizes the important role aerial surveying and mapping utilizing UAV will play, and MAPPS was selected to be on a working group advising the FAA on beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) regulations.

MAPPS has made the point that manned photogrammetry has been in existence for decades without problem or controversy. While commercial satellite remote sensing is more recent, such firms are licensed by the federal government and are legally entitled to engage in such business.  This is an established, accepted, legal, ethical and growing business practice. 

Government agencies at all levels are increasingly reliant upon imagery and geospatial data for the management of natural resources, economic development, the management, adjudication, and prevention of future disruptions in the home mortgage system, the development and implementation of a smart energy grid, the deployment of universal domestic broadband service, the management of Federal real property assets, emergency preparedness and response, homeland security, the delivery of efficient health care and other services provided, financed, or regulated by the Federal Government, measuring, monitoring, verifying and validating the effects of climatic and environmental phenomena, and the maintenance, rehabilitation, and enhancement of public works, transportation, and other infrastructure of the United States.  These and other applications will be enhanced and made more efficient with the uses of UAV. 

Imagery and geospatial data collection, usage and application is a valued part of the modern American economy, as it is broadly applied to improve the analyses and decisions necessary to sustain and enhance the quality of life. The collection of such data from a UAV, when carried out ethically and in a fashion that complies with all appropriate policy and regulatory frameworks, does not threaten the privacy of individual citizens.

MAPPS members operating a UAV are not hobbyists, voyeurs or in any way participants in nefarious activities. As longtime operators of manned aircraft, we are as concerned about aviation safety as anyone. 

In the coming days or weeks, the FAA is expected to release a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on small, low altitude, commercial UAV operations. MAPPS believes aerial surveying and mapping will be able to operate safely and responsibly within these rules. We expect these rules to reflect the association’s long term engagement with and education of FAA officials.

Many others talk about UAVs. MAPPS has been doing something about them to benefit our members and the Nation.

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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 8, 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 4, 2014
Updated: Thursday, September 4, 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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