The national association for firms working in surveying, spatial data and geographic information systems is fully supportive of the proposed federal rules for small unmanned aircraft systems.


MAPPS Association Logo"The proposed rules issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the commercial use of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) will provide considerable potential business applications for member firms in the aerial survey profession,” explained John Palatiello, executive director of MAPPS, an Association of Photogrammetry, Mapping and Geospatial Firms. He then listed examples of possible small UAS operations that, under FAA guidelines, could be conducted under the proposed regulations:

  • crop monitoring/inspection
  • research and development
  • educational/academic uses
  • powerline/pipeline inspection in hilly or mountainous terrain
  • antenna inspections
  • aiding rescue operations such as locating snow avalanche victims
  • bridge inspections
  • aerial photography
  • wildlife nesting area evaluations.

“In the past, MAPPS has worked closely with the FAA to enable the commercial use of small UAS — which, as defined by statute, is an unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds — for aerial survey purposes through various mechanisms, such as special airworthiness certificates, exemptions and certificates of waiver or authorization,” said Palatiello. “MAPPS will continue to support the proposed federal regulations, which will provide for the next phase of integrating small UAS into the national airspace system.” The association will, he said, provide comments to the FAA concerning the proposed rules, and will continue to educate its member firms about operational limitations of small UAS in order to maintain the safety of the national airspace system and ensure they do not pose a threat to national security.   

As a member of an Aviation Rulemaking Committee working group advising the FAA on Beyond Visual Line of Sight regulations, Palatiello added: “Prompt implementation of the small, line-of-sight UAS rules will help strike the necessary balance between aviation safety and business development, but the next set of rules, governing beyond visual line of sight, need to be developed and implemented as soon as possible as well.”

MAPPS has “made the case” that aerial geospatial data acquisition using UAS provides significant societal benefit, said Gregory S. Winton, Esq., who is the MAPPS aviation counsel. “It is not a threat to individual citizen privacy, and should be permitted to operate within a reasonable regulatory framework.” UAS technology, he said, contributes to E911 emergency response and police dispatching systems, precision agriculture, environmental protection and emergency “blue tarp” surveys for hurricane response, as well as engineering, transportation and infrastructure. “Geospatial data enables the delivery of critical government services and valuable business applications that citizens are demanding,” said Winton. “The proposed FAA rule will enable this profession, which has an exemplary safety record and vast experience in manned aerial operations, to use of UAS safely, effectively and economically.”

The Management Association for Private Photogrammetic Surveyors based in Reston, Va., MAPPS is the only national association of firms in the surveying, spatial data and geographic information systems fields. MAPPS member firms are engaged in surveying, photogrammetry, satellite and airborne remote sensing, aerial photography, hydrography, aerial and satellite image processing, GPS, and GIS data collection and conversion services. Associate members include firms that provide products and services to member firms, as well as other firms worldwide.