In a recent ceremony held in Palm Harbor, Fla., Aerial Services Inc. and Teledyne Optech were awarded the 2016 Grand Awards in the 10th Annual MAPPS Geospatial Products and Services Excellence Awards.

"The wide variety of projects submitted serves as a reminder of just how far this profession reaches in our communities and throughout the world. These awards celebrate the best of the best," says John Palatiello, MAPPS executive director.

Aerial Services Inc., based in Cedar Falls, Iowa, was presented the Grand Award for project of the year, as well as the GIS/IT category. The Earth On Demand project enabled the distribution of geospatial data (raster and vector) in near real-time to Web clients and desktop geospatial applications like AutoCAD and Esri.

Teledyne Optech, based in Vaughan, Ontario, was awarded the Grand Award for technology for its SwathTRAK and Dynamic-FOV LiDAR for Complex Terrain. Collecting uniform point density in high-relief terrain has plagued LiDAR surveyors for decades. SwathTRAK maintains a fixed-width data swath in complex terrain by varying the scan FOV dynamically in-flight. Optech's challenge was to reduce collection costs and produce more predictable point density in variable terrain, resulting in increased efficiency and cost savings for the service provider and higher quality data sets for the end user.

The MAPPS awards competition recognizes the professionalism, value, integrity and achievement that member firms have demonstrated in their projects and technology developments over the previous year.

MAPPS also honored winners in five technical categories.

Merrick & Company (Greenwood Village, Colo.) was selected in the Airborne and Satellite Data category for their New Heights for Railroad Safety - NE Illinois PTC System Integrator Project. It utilized existing technology, helicopter and track-side LiDAR, to implement Positive Train Control (PTC) as mandated by the federal government. This is an important project for our aging train network that should eventually lead to greater safety for the traveling public. The consequences of our current system have come to the fore recently with train accidents in Hoboken, N.J., and Brooklyn, N.Y.

Photogrammetry/Elevation Data Generation category was awarded to AECOM (Raleigh, N.C.) with their Indiana Local Resolution Hydrography Project, Evolution of Ele-Hydro NHD project. This was a massive undertaking where a large amount of LiDAR data over the whole of Indiana was processed by AECOM. The result was local-resolution National Hydrography Data for the entire state. The future value is in the creation of "Ele-Hydro" where elevation and hydrography data are collected at the same time.

The winning project in the Remote Sensing category was by Woolpert Inc. (Dayton, Ohio) for the project entitled Mapping Mother Nature: Recording, Tracking and Preserving the Lake Erie Watershed.  Woolpert used a hyperspectral data cube at a 1-meter resolution, which was fused with LiDAR data. This was then compared to historic data for change detection along 77 miles of Lake Erie shoreline. The watershed consisted of over 40 major sub-basins which created a big challenge in the mapping of the watershed.

The winner in the Surveying/Field Data Collection category was CompassData Inc. (Centennial, Colo.) for their 2015 Denali Summit Survey project. Denali is the largest mountain peak in North America and, understandably, presents very unique and dangerous weather challenges.  These challenges included the effects of extreme cold on the equipment and the long GPS baselines.  In a year where less than 60 percent of the summit attempts were successful, this team had to make two ascents, first to deploy the equipment and then to retrieve it. 

Aero-Graphics Inc. (Salt Lake City, Utah) earned the award in the Small Projects category for their Hells Canyon Historical Image Project. This project involved scanning historic aerial photos which were then ortho-rectified. The integration of old films was complex because control was not always available. This required painstaking work by Aero-Graphics to creatively integrate this unreliable data. The project provides a useful overview for evaluating new projects in the Hells Canyon area.

A panel of independent judges evaluated projects submitted by MAPPS members for the awards program. Robert Burtch, professor emeritus of surveying and photogrammetry at Ferris State University served as chairman of our judges' panel. Joining Burtch was Donn Dears, author and retired GE executive; Perry Trunick, editor of POB magazine; Neil Sandler, publisher of xyHt magazine; and Karen Kerrigan, president and CEO of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.


Formed in 1982, MAPPS is a national association exclusively comprised of private firms in the remote sensing, spatial data and geographic information systems field in the U.S. The MAPPS membership spans the entire spectrum of the geospatial community, including member firms engaged in satellite and airborne remote sensing, surveying, photogrammetry, aerial photography, LiDAR, hydrography, bathymetry, charting, aerial and satellite image processing, GPS, and GIS data collection and conversion services. MAPPS also includes associate member firms, which are companies that provide hardware, software, products and services to the geospatial profession in the U.S. and other firms from around the world.