More than five weeks after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, aerial photography operations for mapping and GIS are almost back to normal, according to the Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors (MAPPS).
Immediately after the attack, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), acting on instructions from the National Security Council (NSC), grounded all general aviation aircraft. These included aircraft used for aerial photography and digital airborne remote sensing. MAPPS embarked a campaign to permit aerial geospatial data collection flights to resume by working with the FAA, NSC, Congress and numerous Federal mapping agencies. General aviation operations were permitted to resume first in rural areas, then five major metropolitan areas were opened beginning October 15, and, this week, operations were permitted to resume in an additional 12 cities.
Only Boston, New York City and Washington, D.C. continue to operate under restrictions that prohibit flight operations under "visual flight rules" (VFR), which govern virtually all aerial photo missions. MAPPS is continuing to work with FAA and NSC to open this air space.
"We are pleased that most of our members are back in the air. A tremendous backlog of projects resulted from the more than one-month shutdown and these firms are working hard to get these projects flown. We appreciate the difficult security issues our government officials have to deal with, but we are pleased they have been responsive to MAPPS and have permitted the resumption of most aerial photo operations. We are particularly pleased that FAA and NSC heeded the MAPPS message about the nature of aerial photography and the impact these services have on development and resource management. Some operations, such a radio and TV traffic reports, banner towing and site-seeing operations are still grounded in more than 30 major metropolitan areas. Had it not been for the MAPPS lobbying effort, aerial photography could easily have been lumped with these activities and remained grounded today," according to MAPPS Executive Director John Palatiello.
The metro areas opened this week were:
Monday, October 22 Atlanta, Georgia; Las Vegas, Nevada; Los Angeles, California; Miami, Florida; San Francisco, California.
Tuesday, October 23 Denver, Colorado; Detroit, Michigan; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; San Diego, California.
Wednesday, October 24 Chicago, Illinois; Orlando, Florida.