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Editor's Points

July 1, 2005
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Is the practice of photogrammetry overlooked in the surveying arena? It is, after all, according to Webster, "the art or process of surveying or measuring, as in map making"¦"-not to mention it is included in most state definitions for surveying.But does it receive the attention it should? Is it adequately defined? And is there a need for a national license for photogrammetry? The Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors (MAPPS) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) believe so, and the two groups are collectively working toward that end.

What are the points of concern and proposal for this undertaking? One issue is whether professional licensing should apply only to the provision of mapping services or if it should also apply to mapping products. To this end, a definition of each is being compiled by the MAPPS committee on Commercial Remote Sensing and Licensed Data from input of service and product providers. (See www.mapps.org for more.)

Further, photogrammetry, while often defined by surveying, must be differentiated from it. The training and education of certified photogrammetrists is vastly different from that of surveyors, and the equipment used by each group is perhaps equally different. The size of firms (employees) varies as well, as do the revenues collected for each category. What's more, especially in comparison to surveying, photogrammetry isn't usually localized; rather, it is conducted across state boundaries. Individual state regulations impede the natural practice of interstate photogrammetric work, according to MAPPS Executive Director John Palatiello, and aren't necessary like they are for surveying where boundary laws vary by state. This should be considered in the definition of a nationally certified photogrammetrist.

So, is photogrammetry really part of the practice of surveying? Is surveying a means (service of measurement) to an end (map or other product)? Or do they coincide? This must be decided, as must licensure specifics and the creation of a board of regulation.

In its definition for surveying, California mentions the "licensing of photogrammetric surveyors" but does not provide a means of licensing. Florida set a precedent of sorts in this regard in 1994 by enacting licensure for photogrammetrists as surveyors and mappers. This action provided a springboard for the Carolinas to follow, and recently, Virginia. And although the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) provides certifications for those in various photogrammetric, remote sensing and mapping positions, it seems there may still be a need for a formal national license.

Licensing requires passing of a test. Palatiello says that the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) is working on a photogrammetry examination, which he says "is a positive step," and further, that "the ASPRS bank of exam questions is certainly a resource that should be utilized."

MAPPS proposes that, for national licensure of certified photogrammetrists to be effective, a board be established to: grant licenses, assure quality of product, enforce licensing, establish minimum requirements for eligibility of licensure and award licenses, establish standards of practice, and enforce compliance and conduct investigations into those who don't comply to the standards set forth (and enforce penalties and fines if appropriate.) The board, according to Palatiello, should be made up of "practicing photogrammetrists who are leaders in the profession." When asked if the board should be part of NCEES, Palatiello responded: "That would be up to the board. However, one can argue that a national board would have little in common with the individual state boards."

MAPPS and the USGS are investigating numerous other groups who have enacted licensing boards, including pilots, telecom companies and wetland delineators.

What do you think, surveyors? Photogrammetry is a prominent component of geospatial data, as it is often in the activities of surveying. One thing is for sure: if the photogrammetry arena does install a licensing standard, it needs to be distinctly differentiated from surveying. Photogrammetrists should not be allowed to perform traditional surveying including boundary work, ALTA surveys and subdivision, but they should be allowed to perform the duties within their expertise like producing digital orthophotos and setting geodetic control.

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