Unmanned Systems Dominate Discussion at MAPPS Winter Conference

For over seven years, MAPPS has hosted conference sessions on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). This was to keep the membership informed and engaged with the integration of technology, as well as the pending regulations for commercial use.

The buzz around the technology has never been as high as it was at the MAPPS Winter Conference held February 9-13 at The Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California.

The discussions were facilitated through a new directive from the MAPPS Board of Directors to reorganize the associations committee structure by creating forums. Forums are meant to be a way to share and gain information and knowledge, network, solve problems, work with peers to improve business and contribute to the well being of the geospatial profession at and apart from attendance at MAPPS meetings and conference.

To address UAV issues, MAPPS established a UAV sub-group within its Aerial Acquisition Forum at the conference. MAPPS continues to be an advocate for the geospatial profession on commercial use of UAVs.. Topics that were discussed during the conference included public-private partnerships, designated certificates of authorization for geospatial applications and continued advocacy within the states and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for a more rapid integration of the technology for the commercial use by MAPPS member firms.

Throughout the conference, MAPPS hosted sessions, forums, as well as legislative roundtable discussions addressing topics including UAVs, federal contracting, privacy issues, federal highway reauthorization and small business issues. These sessions stimulated dialogue among members and produced action items for the association.

The opening keynote and final sessions provided quintessential bookends to the conference. The keynote, provided by Dr. Tim Tully, Executive Vice President of R&D & Chief Science Officer of Dart NeuroScience, LLC in San Diego, CA focused on his research for mapping the biochemical makeup of fruit fly brains as means to treat and cure human mental disorders such as Alzheimers and dementia. The provocative presentation showed different uses of 3D technology to visualize information in the brain, much like geospatial data are used today to portray topographic and planimetric features.

A panel session, which included hardware and software manufacturers, as well as professional service providers, titled Is Photogrammetry Dead? provided great insight into the changes taking place with the practice of photogrammetry. The conclusion from the panelists is that photogrammetry in the traditional sense has changed with technology, but the science and the practice is not dead. In fact, photogrammetry is remerging through new technological innovations, applications and processing, including LiDAR and remote sensing.

During the conference, attendees were educated on a variety of business issues including state laws pertaining to non-compete agreements, intellectual property licensing, time management practices and managing marketing budgets for both small and large business for business development. Threats, including privacy legislation and education, and labor union activity, were also discussed in conference sessions.

Federal agency partners from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)s Coastal Services Center provided updates on current programs and upcoming procurement opportunities. MAPPS has been an advocate for USGSs 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) and NOAAs Digital Coast project, as well as the Digital Coast Act and Map It Once, Use It Many Times Act currently pending before Congress. Conference attendees were provided updates on the programs, as well as the upcoming contracting schedule for the USGSs Geospatial Products and Services Contract (GPSC).

During the conference, MAPPS continued a new tradition of integrating community service into the program. Conference attendees participated in a Team Up for Our Troops event creating care packages for deployed military personnel. The military members receiving the care packages all had a relationship to MAPPS member firms.

Attendees at the conference were energized with new market opportunities, technologies and the discussion forums facilitated by MAPPS. Many attendees had a positive outlook for the year ahead and expectations of business growth in 2014. According to the attendees, MAPPS meetings continue to be a desired forum by executives of geospatial businesses for information sharing, partnering and business. A conference environment focused on networking makes MAPPS events unique because of the personal interaction among colleagues and peers. The influence of social media has not changed the importance and value that face-to-face interaction provides to business owners and senior executives. MAPPS conferences provide that valuable forum to its members.