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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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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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Support 3DEP by Contacting Congress Today!

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Friday, May 2, 2014

In a recent column in LiDAR News, I wrote about the need for the geospatial community to contact Congress in support of the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) 3D elevation program, commonly referred to as 3DEP. In the article, I highlight the importance of this national program and the benefits that can be realized:

3DEP will satisfy the growing demand for consistent, high-quality elevation data and a wide range of other three-dimensional representations of the Nation's natural and constructed features. Among the applications that will benefit from 3DEP data are flood risk management, agriculture, water supply, homeland security, renewable energy, aviation safety, and other areas. Indeed, USGS has identified more than 600 applications that would benefit from such enhanced elevation data. 3DEP will promote economic growth, facilitate responsible environmental protection and resource development and management, assist with infrastructure improvement, and generally enhance the quality of life of all Americans.

In an effort to educate Congress, a letter has been prepared for the geospatial community to send to your Congressmen and Senators. The letter is attached to the bottom of this post.

To identify your Congressman and Senators, use this helpful link, using your zip code. Remember, your home and office may be in two different Congressional districts, so be sure to write both Representatives. 

Here are some other key points to remember in writing to your legislators:

Email or fax are the preferred communication methods (not regular U.S. mail)
Be courteous and respectful in all communications. Don't use threats.
Cover only one issue per letter. Don’t add other issues to this letter!
Explain how the issue would affect you and/or your organization or community.
Limit your comments to one page or two at most. Elected officials hear from hundreds of constituents’ daily so a brief letter is more effective than a multi-page document.

The letter provided below should be used and edited to insert your name and organization, as well as the name of the Congressman or Senator. We have highlighted the areas that you should amend. 

MAPPS, the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS), the National Digital Elevation Program, National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC), the Coalition of Geospatial Organizations (COGO), the Association of American State Geologists (AAGS), the National Digital Elevation Program (NDEP), and the National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC) have endorsed 3DEP. However, Congress still needs to hear from the broad geospatial profession. 

This is an issue that unites every segment of the geospatial profession from public to private sector. We urge you to take a moment to write your Congressmen and Senators and ask them to work with the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, respectively, to assure the President’s requested level of funding for these activities, if not increase them.

Now is the time to contact Congress, do not delay! 

 Attached Files:

Tags:  3DEP  Advocacy  Congress  Elevation Data  LIDAR  MAPPS  NSPS  USGS 

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MAPPS Minute: Nominations Committee and Summer Conference Early Registration Deadline

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Wednesday, April 30, 2014

MAPPS President Jeff Lower has appointed Pamela Nobles of 3DS (Tallahassee, FL) chair the MAPPS Nominations Committee. The committee will recommend candidates for 3 seats on the MAPPS Board of Directors. Volunteers to serve on the Nominations Committee are being sought. If you wish to help select the slate of candidates for the association’s board, please contact President Lower by Thursday, May 1.

The full Nominations Committee, along with a call for nominations, will be announced on May 5.

The election of Directors will take place at the annual business meeting of MAPPS during the Summer Conference, to be held on July 27-31, in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

The discounted early bird registration rate for the conference expires this Saturday, May 3. 

Mike Tully and his Program Committee are developing another timely and informative line-up of sessions and speakers. We’ll feature a special UAV Day that will include some hands-on exposure to UAV technology.  It will provide everything you need to know to enter this game-changing facet of the geospatial business.Sessions will also focus on new and emerging technologies in LIDAR, a panel on effective marketing communications and key strategies from small and large business to effectively create teaming partnerships that are mutually beneficial. 

More sessions will be announced shortly, but make your plans to attend TODAY by taking advantage of the early bird registration and making your hotel reservation.

Tags:  Business  Contracting  Elections  Geospatial  LIDAR  MAPPS Strategic Plan  Nominations  Small Business  Summer Conference  Teaming  UAV 

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MAPPS Minute: Congressional Testimony and Upcoming LiDAR Webinar

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Tuesday, April 22, 2014

MAPPS testified in favor of 3DEP funding before the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives on April 10 indicating the strong support within MAPPS for national LIDAR data that will provide a very positive return on investment and serve of variety of elevation needs for government at all levels, as well as the private sector.

President Obama has included funding for 3DEP in his budget request to Congress, and MAPPS testimony urged Congress to fund that request, or increase the amount if possible.

USGS has updated its national LIDAR specification to reflect the 3DEP program and other revisions.  MAPPS will host a webinar with Karl Heidemann, USGS EROS Center, on the USGS Base LIDAR Specification this Thursday, April 24 at 1:00 PM Eastern Time.  Register here

All members have been notified of the schedule for the 2014 MAPPS Geospatial Products and Services Excellence Awards competition.

Entries are due August 8 and winners will be announced at the Geospatial & Engineering International Conference on Thursday, September 25, 2014 in Alexandria, VA.

Tags:  3DEP  Appropriations  Congress  Excellence Awards  Funding  Geospatial  International Conference  LiDAR  USGS 

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MAPPS Minute - FEMA Flood Mapping

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Friday, January 10, 2014

Lost in the holiday festivities was a report released by the National Academy of Public Administration, titled "FEMA Flood Mapping: Enhancing Coordination to Maximize Performance". MAPPS was instrumental in convincing Congress to include the funding mechanism provisions in the FEMA bill in 2012 and worked with the NAPA study team. Learn more from MAPPS Executive Director John Palatiello.

Register to the attend the MAPPS 2014 Winter Conference today!

Tags:  2014 Winter Conference  Coordination  FEMA  Flood Mapping  Geospatial  LIDAR  NAPA 

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MAPPS Minute - September 13, 2013

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Friday, September 13, 2013



Nick Palatiello, MAPPS Assistant Executive Director for External Affairs,  provides an update on MAPPS activities. Welcome new member firm, recording of webinar with USGS on 3DEP, meeting with the Federal Aviation Administration on LIDAR issues, program announcement for the Geospatial & Engineering International Conference and a new blog post on the status of a FY14 budget.

Tags:  3DEP  Congress  FAA  LIDAR 

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$11 Million in Funding for USGS 3-Dimensional Elevation Program (3DEP) Included in President Obama’s FY14 Proposed Budget

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 5, 2013

President Obama’s proposed FY 14 budget, released April 10, 2013, includes $11 million in funding for a 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) in the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

"We commend President Obama and his administration for their recognition of the importance of elevation data for the Nation and the proposed investment in geospatial activities that can save tax payers dollars by accurately mapping the nation with modern technology,” said John Palatiello, MAPPS Executive Director. "In light of the recent GAO report calling for a reduction in duplication of mapping activities, the 3-D Elevation Program (3DEP) is an example of a program that can achieve this goal by leveraging various agency investments and contracting with the private sector to reduce government duplication of and unfair competition with the private sector. Through the leadership of USGS, the 3DEP program is also reducing duplication within the government by bringing agency stakeholders together to ‘map it once and use it many times’ through the coordination of mapping data needs.”

The USGS will use the Geospatial Products and Services Contract (GPSC) as the acquisition vehicle for the collection of LIDAR and IFSAR data for the 3DEP program. USGS is working with states and other federal agencies to increase the area in which data is collected and to reduce duplication.

3DEP is highlighted within the "Natural Hazards” program with the Department of the Interior Budget for USGS (page 56) and includes $9.0 million for the 3DEP program for the collection LIDAR, $1.0 million for IFSAR data collection and mapping in Alaska and an estimated $850,000 for the collection of priority ecosystem assessments, which will consist of LIDAR acquisition.

This is only the President’s proposed budget. To be fully funded, 3DEP and other programs within the President’s budget will need to receive appropriations from Congress. MAPPS will continue to work with Congress and advocate the value that is realized by government agencies and the citizens of the United States by investing in geospatial technologies and utilizing the capabilities and services provided by the private sector.

Tags:  3DEP  FY14  GAO  IFSAR  LIDAR  President  USGS 

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Private Sector Capacity for 3DEP

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Tuesday, January 15, 2013
The USGS has launched a program to provide a national elevation dataset to a common standard with scheduled updates. The 3DEP program ( is based on a recommended 8-year acquisition cycle at a cost of $146 million per year. In response to a request from USGS, MAPPS, the association of private sector geospatial firms, conducted an analysis of existing and future private sector LIDAR data acquisition capacity and capability.


In a response to USGS, MAPPS has confirmed that a capable, qualified private sector capacity exists to fulfill the LIDAR data acquisition requirements of 3DEP.

Using a conservative "rule of thumb" estimate of a firm being able to generate $3 million in fees per LIDAR unit per year, there would need to be 50 (rounded) operational units in the commercial sector in the U.S. to accomplish 3DEP consistent with the projected annual funding.

MAPPS estimates there are more than 100 operational LIDAR units in the commercial sector in the U.S. that can meet the NEEA/3DEP standards and specifications. This includes units brought into production within the past six years and which are capable of large area collections, and excludes older systems and those used for corridors or similarly limited areas. Therefore, an acquisition capacity more than adequate to accomplish the requirements of 3DEP exists in the U.S. private sector.

Additionally, 3DEP would stimulate additional capacity, as a "build it and they will come” phenomena would exist if 3DEP is fully funded. Firms engaged in LIDAR acquisition would likely secure additional units to increase the collection of data. We estimate that as many as 15 additional units would be purchased annually by service firms in the first years of 3DEP if certainty of full funding is provided. The manufacturing capacity of LIDAR sensor instruments is more than sufficient to meet this demand.

Under the current economic climate, it is reasonable to assume that there is adequate capacity in the market to fulfill current needs. Indeed there is excess capacity. According to the biannual MAPPS Economic Survey, only 35 percent of MAPPS member firms are currently operating at full capacity. There is existing LIDAR capacity to satisfy current requirements, 3DEP, and future market growth, as well as an ability for acquisition capabilities to grow to meet prospective increase in demand.

Utilizing the Geospatial Products and Services Contract (GPSC), a suite of multiple-award USGS contracts with the private sector that has been competitively procured via the qualifications based selection process pursuant to 40 USC 1101 and FAR part 36.6, provides a public-private partnership between USGS and the private sector to accomplish 3DEP via task orders for LIDAR acquisition. Based on information collected from firms in its membership, MAPPS is confident the equipment infrastructure, service capacity and contract mechanism is in place to efficiently implement the 3DEP program at its fully funded level.

In an economy where you are counting every dollar, it is good to know you can count on MAPPS!


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Tags:  3DEP  LIDAR  Private Sector 

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MAPPS Comments to FAA Seeking Exemption for LIDAR Units in Rotorcraft, Encourages Geospatial Professionals to Submit Comments

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Friday, August 17, 2012

MAPPS has submitted comments to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on its proposed "Certification of Airborne Surveillance and Searchlight Systems Using Lasers or Infrared Searchlights in 14 CFR parts 27 and 29 Rotorcraft,” a rule that could harm the aerial LIDAR mapping market.

Over the past few months, the FAA has made it increasingly difficult for operators to perform aerial LIDAR missions by classifying mapping LIDAR as a harmful laser. With the help of LiDAR manufacturers and operators that make up the MAPPS membership, the association has been working with the FAA to address this issue. However, just like the "laser pointer” law that started the confusion, the MAPPS membership has been diligent in commenting on similar directives that could affect the use of LIDAR technologies.

Airborne LIDAR systems used for mapping are neither surveillance nor searchlight systems. However, language in the proposed policy that includes "installations of fully enclosed laser device..” can sweep the surveying and mapping LiDAR systems into the FAA regulatory scheme. This blanket policy, without knowledge of the niche mapping LiDAR market could affect many LIDAR businesses.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the determining government body for classification and ratings of laser systems. MAPPS member firms that are producers of airborne mapping LIDAR instrumentation all comply with 21 CFR 1040.10. These LIDAR systems are designed to be used as airborne mapping systems with careful attention to design and manufacture for the airborne environment.

As confusion has already taken place within FAA, MAPPS is seeking a specific exemption for mapping LiDAR in 14 CFR parts 27 and 29 Rotorcraft.

Firms that manufacture LiDAR systems and geospatial professionals who perform collection services are encouraged to submit comments to the FAA prior to the August 31 deadline.

Tags:  Comment  FAA  Lasers  LIDAR 

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Don't Make LiDAR Criminal

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Updated: Thursday, August 11, 2011
As reported in LiDAR News yesterday, MAPPS has be working on an issue with LiDAR techonology and the FAA over the past several months. We have developed a one-pager  which has been distributed to members of the geospatial profession and to Members of Congress.

The U.S. Senate has approved an amendment to the FAA Reauthorization Bill, S. 223, and the House of Representatives has passed a free-standing bill, H.R. 386, to make it a criminal offense for anyone who "aims the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, or at the flight path of such an aircraft.” The legislation defines a "laser pointer” as "any device designed or used to amplify electromagnetic radiation by stimulated emission that emits a beam designed to be used by the operator as a pointer or highlighter to indicate, mark, or identify a specific position, place, item, or object.” However, this language was NOT included in H.R. 658, the FAA Reauthorization Bill, and therefore reconciliation is needed during a House-Senate Conference.

MAPPS is deeply concerned that this definition is too broad and vague. It could include LiDAR (Light Detecting And Ranging), a state-of-the art mapping technology that can measure the distance to or other characteristics of an area of land or an object by illuminating the area or item with light beams or pulses from a laser. LiDAR indeed uses a directed beam of light to identify a specific position, but does NOT pose the safety threat of the lasers intended by the legislation. A LiDAR device could be defined as pointing a laser beam, however LiDAR devices are not pointers.

LiDAR is a technology developed by NASA that is now fully commercialized. It is used for accurate floodplain mapping, conducting "danger tree surveys” of overhead power lines, measuring vegetative cover or biomass for climate change analysis and hundreds of other applications. There are more than 50 aerial LiDAR systems in operation in the United States.

One of the major users of LiDAR is the FAA itself. The FAA uses Single Point LiDAR devices to monitor airports throughout the United States. These devices point at aircraft for the purpose of getting the position of the aircraft during ground movement on the taxiway. LiDAR services, contracted by individual airport authorizes, utilize Stationary Tripod Scanners to survey the interiors and exteriors of structures at airports, Airborne LiDAR is used to conduct obstruction surveys, master planning and pavement surveys of runways. Each of these FAA-related operations would be in violation of the legislative language. In addition, USACE, NGA, USGS, FEMA, NOAA, and other agencies contract for LiDAR.

The legislation is clear in its intent to prohibit inappropriate use of the laser pointer, particularly when the objective is to disrupt or harm a pilot in the cockpit. With a slight modification, the legislative language could meet its intent, without impeding the safe and legitimate used of LiDAR technology.
JUNE 2011 UPDATE: Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Randy Babbitt announced June 1 that the FAA will begin to impose civil penalties against people who point a laser into the cockpit of an aircraft. Today’s interpretation reflects the fact that pointing a laser at an aircraft from the ground could seriously impair a pilot’s vision and interfere with the flight crew’s ability to safely handle its responsibilities. The maximum civil penalty the FAA can impose on an individual for violating the FAA’s regulations that prohibit interfering with a flight crew is $11,000 per violation.

MAPPS urges that Congressional intent clearly state that LiDAR technology is not a danger to aviation operations, and that this technology enables public policy decisions. This Congressional intent should be entered into the Congressional Record and/or the Conference Report via a colloquy and/or by an official statement.

The following modification is respectfully recommended:

"any device designed or used to amplify electromagnetic radiation by stimulated emission that emits a beam designed to be used by the operator as a pointer or highlighter to indicate, mark, or identify a specific position, place, item, or object.

For Further Information Contact: MAPPS John "JB” Byrd, Government Affairs Manager
1856 Old Reston Avenue, Suite 205, Reston, VA 20190 P: 703-787-6996; F: 703-787-7550; E:;

Tags:  FAA  LiDAR 

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