It’s an inexact science--the ability to dig deep and fully understand a client’s needs, and then use all of the available skills and resources to meet those needs while simultaneously providing an immense amount of future value. Yet some firms have honed this ability to a fine art. The projects submitted for the 2010 MAPPS Geospatial Products and Services Excellence Awards exemplified the work of such firms.

The projects were evaluated by a panel of independent judges, which included Christine Grahl, POB editor and community manager; Pamela Lawhead, associate professor at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi; Leonard Gilroy, AICP, director of government reform at Reason Foundation, Los Angeles, CA; and Donn Dears, president of, a nonprofit think tank conducting research on energy and economic issues, in Geneva, Illinois. The panel was chaired by Robert Burtch PS, CP, Ferris State University, Big Rapids, Mich. Six winners were selected from among the entries, and one firm was honored with the Grand Award for the overall best project.


The awards presentation took place at the MAPPS Fall Policy Conference, held in conjunction with the Special Joint Symposium of ISPRS Technical Commission IV and AutoCarto 2010 held in association with the ASPRS/CaGIS Specialty Conference on GIS Day, November 17, 2010. The event and a reception was sponsored by Riegl USA, a MAPPS member firm, at the Kissimmee Airport near Orlando, Fla. “MAPPS member firms have once again demonstrated the professionalism, innovation and societal benefit that the private geospatial community provides to enhance our quality of life,” said MAPPS Executive Director John Palatiello. “On a daily basis, MAPPS member firms are providing quality services, data and technology products. The Excellence Awards highlight these achievements and the professionalism MAPPS members strive to provide.” 

Photo Science

Following is an overview of the 2010 award winners.


Photogrammetry/ Elevation Data Generation

Michael Baker Jr. Inc. (Baker), U.S. Bureau of Census - Accurate Coordinate Datasets Collection (ACDC)

In 2005, the Census Bureau selected Baker as the program manager for the ACDC project. The objective was to provide spatially accurate ground control throughout the entire United States and U.S. Territories for use in support of the Census Bureau’s Master Address File/Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing Accuracy Improvement Project (MAF/TIGER AIP, or MTAIP). Baker was chosen based on its proven capabilities, prior experience in related activities, the capacity to handle shifting workloads and its familiarity with the concepts, practices and procedures of collecting accurate street intersection points for TIGER horizontal accuracy verification due to prior participation on the Bureau’s MTAIP initiative. Baker’s multidiscipline approach and management expertise yielded a more-efficient submission analysis through consistency and standardization and a 99.6 percent first-time acceptance rate on deliverables. The project was completed ahead of schedule and $2.4 million under budged allocation. By delivering high-level positional accuracies on generated control points, Baker ensured that the supplied control coordinates will be valid for use by the Census Bureau for years to come, even as the bureau continues to enhance this spatial accuracy of its nationwide datasets. 


Small Projects

Kappa Mapping, Tenants Harbor Buoy Counting Project

Nearly three million traps bring in 78 million pounds of lobster annually, adding $228 million to Maine’s economy and making the industry’s sustainability a hot topic. To help scientists determine how trap numbers affect the lobster population, Maine Department of Marine Resources contracted with Kappa Mapping to inventory the number of buoys marking lobster traps in Tenants Harbor. The challenge was how to count thousands of buoys in a constantly moving ocean. Kappa Mapping used conventional photogrammetry to acquire overlapping aerial photos under calm, glare-free conditions and then applied an innovative combination of photo comparison, georefencing and stereomodel leveling to accurately count 10,000 buoys in a 3.5-square nautical mile area. The technique is expected to allow scientists to suggest buoy reduction percentages, potentially ensuring the industry’s sustainability while improving efficiencies and boosting catch. It might also be applied to large whale risk and shipping channel conflict assessments.


Airborne and Satellite Data Acquisition

Photo Science, Humboldt Bay Ecosystem Mapping

Located along the northern California coast, Humboldt Bay is the only deep water port in northern California and is the second largest natural estuary in the state. A significant need emerged for contemporary spatial data to characterize the marine and estuarine environments and to connect marine and terrestrial conservation programs. Photo Science worked with NOAA’s Coastal Services Center and more than 20 local, state and federal stakeholders to determine what aerial imagery would best suit the variety of needs for the marine resource conservation programs underway in the region. Despite extremely challenging conditions, Photo Science successfully captured high-resolution imagery and produced the orthophotography required for the project. Once the imagery was collected, the firm collaborated with CSC and California Sea Grant to delineate submerged aquatic vegetation in Humboldt Bay. The project resulted in the development of a sophisticated flight planning automation tool that is already having a broad-ranging impact on other aerial imaging acquisition projects. 



The Sidwell Co., Improved Geospatial Cadastral Mapping with GIS Integration

Charlotte County in Florida had begun developing a GIS program intended to support the needs and operations of many departments within its local government enterprise. Although the county used CAD-based platforms for performing some tasks, other departments were still using manual methods to update geographic information. The county realized that the overall design of its GIS program needed to be revised so that it could further implement new mainstream GIS technology on the Esri platform. A key objective was to align the Property Appraisers Office on the same GIS platform as all other county departments so that they would be fully supported by one enterprise geodatabase system. The Sidwell Co. worked closely with the county to understand its needs and delivered a solution that improved the county’s cadastral model through the implementation of a tagged/multiple-feature data model, the renumbering of all 220,000 real property parcels in the county, and the addition of recorded dimensions from existing maps and source documents. The project has provided substantial savings for the county in staff time needed to maintain the data layers.

Vexcel Imaging

Remote Sensing

Woolpert Inc., City of Columbus 2009 Impervious Surface Program

The Public Utilities Department within the City of Columbus was faced with the challenge of maintaining the accuracy of the city’s ever-changing impervious surface maps (ISM). Object-oriented remote sensing (using LiDAR and orthoimagery) represented a method to precisely identify the existence of impervious surfaces, including driveways, sidewalks and parking lots. The primary objective of the mapping program was to utilize newly developed technology to produce an up-to-date impervious dataset to both validate the previous work completed as well as to identify newly developed areas in an efficient manner. Using LiDAR and orthoimagery to provide a highly automated method to classify and delineate the Eastland Mall’s impervious surfaces, Woolpert was able to identify slight differences in the existing impervious surface map, primarily due to changes in grass islands being updated to asphalt parking. Woolpert’s success with this project demonstrated that advances in remote sensing techniques offer an unparalleled accuracy on a much larger scale than previously available and at a fraction of the cost and manpower. Columbus continues to use the newly developed ISM dataset to support the accurate calculation of its commercial and industrial clients’ impervious surfaces

Vexcel Imaging

Technology Innovation

Vexcel Imaging/Microsoft, UltraCamL/Lp

The UltraCamL was first announced in July 2008 at the ISPRS Congress in Beijing and has been in operation since May 2009. (An upgraded version, the UltraCamLp, is now available.) The technology is the result of a dedicated focus to combine the best elements of both medium- and large-format cameras to set a new price/performance standard for photogrammetric imaging operations. Features of the camera include a high-resolution PAN channel that is stitched from two CCDs; a Bayer pattern-based color CCD for color information; an additional NIR cone to collect four-band images; PAN sharpening; FMC in all cones through time-delayed integration; a fixed lens system; a large footprint (12,000 pixels across); and a complete solution fully integrated into the sensor head. The camera is suitable for all types of applications yet is priced significantly lower than large-format cameras at roughly $300,000. The lower price point allows smaller firms to transition to digital technology without sacrificing image quality.