In response to a call from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for public comments on a proposed framework of regulations for use of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to be operated in public skies, MAPPS submitted on Friday its concerns and suggestions.
As the only national association exclusively comprised of private firms in the remote sensing, spatial data and geographic information systems field, MAPPS is uniquely positioned to act as both expert adviser and witness on UAS technology, best practices and implications. As many of its members operate small UAS (under 55 pounds), MAPPS is well versed in current practice and future plans for commercial UAS.
In light of all of the many useful geospatial applications, MAPPS believes "regulation of geo-location data, or its collection from a UAS, would have a severe, negative and unintended consequences for the government, business and individual U.S. citizens."
Among the technical comments proffered by MAPPS:
Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations are currently possible and should be promptly permitted;
FAA should finalize regulations expeditiously requiring all small UAS sold in the United States to adhere to basic standards of design, manufacture and safety;
Restrictions in the proposed rules for flying over a "populated area" are impractical and must be relaxed. The proposed rule indicates that "any single person within the area of operation that is not inside a structure" would cause the termination of a UAS mission and should be revised to allow operations unless an area has been designated a restricted area, such as like a stadium, parade, or event with population density;
A microUAV category should be established for very small, lightweight UAS, with limited regulation since the impact on safety is minimal.
MAPPS has been engaged in programs, education sessions, and public policy discussion on use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for geospatial applications - aerial surveying, mapping and imagery - for more than seven years. MAPPS is a member of a partnership on UAS with the National Conference of State Legislatures, the association's Executive Director, John Palatiello, is a member of a FAA rulemaking advisory committee on BVLOS, and MAPPS member firms were the first in the geospatial community to receive section 333 waivers to commercially operate UAS in the United States. On Nov. 17-18, 2015, MAPPS will be the exclusive geospatial applications content provider at Drone World Expo in San Jose, Calif.
Read the full text of the MAPPS comments here.