The members of MAPPS, the national association of private sector geospatial firms, will have the opportunity to learn about, discuss and debate the threats and opportunities presented by emerging and disruptive technology at the MAPPS Winter Conference to be held January 25–29, 2015, in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico.

The Chair of the MAPPS Program Committee, Mike Tully, President and CEO of Aerial Services, Inc., describes the agenda as “covering changes in the market from a business and a technical standpoint that are emerging as opportunities or maybe as threats by infringing on traditional practices. We communicate a great mix of information using new technology briefings, updates on UAVs and other FAA policies, ‘best practice’ presentations, and the status of upcoming government opportunities.”

One day of the meeting provides an opportunity for associate members, i.e., hardware and software vendors such as Leica Geosystems, Optech, Reigl USA, Trimble, and VisionMap, to make presentations about new and emerging technology that their firms are bringing to market. By discussing innovative products and services and their potential applications, the audience is able to assess the opportunities for their own businesses and is better able to make buying decisions about investing in new technology.

Legislative round tables are standard at MAPPS meetings because the interactive format allows members to discuss multiple subject areas and brainstorm about legislative priorities. The input generated is used by MAPPS to set priorities for lobbying Congress and federal agencies in the coming year. MAPPS participates in and influences the legislative process on behalf of the geospatial community at both the federal and State levels. Key topics in the upcoming year will include the FAA Reauthorization & Reform Act of 2012, the Highway Bill Extension (HR 5021), and the Federal Land Asset Inventory Reform (FLAIR) Act of 2013.

Keeping up-to-date on federal programs is important for all of the MAPPS members since most large contracts are awarded to teams that involve a prime contractor with multiple subcontractors. Vicki Lucas of USGS will present on 3DEP, which is attracting a lot of attention at high levels of the government, including the White House. Also, the USGS Geospatial Product and Service Contracts (GPSC), currently coming up for re-competition, are expected to be awarded in Q1 2015 with significantly higher spending caps, which is good news for the community.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will be a topic of several sessions including updates on the latest FAA regulations. There is speculation about whether Congress will do something to expedite the process to approve commercial small UAV (sUAV) operations, or instead seek restrictions. The FAA’s sUAV Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) comment period may be ongoing during the meeting so there should be lots to talk about.

This MAPPS meeting includes sessions that are relevant for both large and small businesses. A small business panel, chaired by Claire Kiedrowski, Kappa Mapping, Bangor, Maine, a MAPPS Director and chair of the MAPPS Small Business Forum, will talk about issues unique to owning and operating a small business within the geospatial market, while another session will focus on how to manage a geospatial division within a larger A&E firm. The challenges and benefits of this scenario will be discussed by a panel including Woolpert, Merrick, Dewberry, and AECOM.

Other topics covered in sessions include intellectual property, patents, and trademarks, how they work and what they mean; what components are needed for a successful federal, state or local level government geospatial advisory committee; corporate wellness plans, how they work and are they effective; safety management systems for aerial acquisition; and incorporating UAV, close range technology, mobile solutions, and crowd sourced data to create actionable intelligence for utilities.

Also on the agenda are potential threats to existing businesses in the form of nontraditional market entrants using new technology to compete in geospatial areas, for example mobile mapping for asset management and BIM, and of course, UAVs for surveying and mapping. There are many factors the profession and business interests need to work out related to minimum standards, licensing, and appropriate procurement methods to ensure that professional service and quality data is maintained within the surveying and mapping profession by the new providers.

“Registration is still open to MAPPS members and non-members for the Winter Meeting; we welcome all principals, owners, partners and senior professionals of surveying, mapping, and geospatial firms," says John Palatiello, MAPPS Executive Director. “What really distinguishes MAPPS meetings from others in the community is our private business sector focus. We present technical issues from a business perspective and discuss how technology will impact the geospatial market and what our members should do to capitalize on upcoming opportunities.”