As a trade association, MAPPS focuses on the business aspects of the geospatial market. The sessions and discussions during the MAPPS 2014 Summer Conference in Coeur dAlene, Idaho focused on the advancements in technologies that will create new opportunities and challenges for private sector geospatial firms, as well as changes in the marketplaces in which companies compete.
Highlighting the conference, held July 27-31, was a day focused on the advancement of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) which is proving to be a game-changing technology for the profession. According to conference attendees, the MAPPS Summer Conference is the first venue to consolidate information regarding UAS technology into a cohesive and consolidated forum for business leaders to understand.
The sessions included information about the legal and regulatory hurdles and pathways in which private sector geospatial companies can begin to apply to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to be able to utilize, test, and operate commercial UAS systems. This was reinforced by a session on the certificate of authorization (COA) process, which included opportunities utilizing public-private partnerships, and the waiver from regulations process in section 333 of the 2012 FAA Act..
Attendees were provided a comprehensive summary of the variety of UAS platforms available for geospatial professionals to consider. In addition, business leaders were presented with an overview of emerging markets that could take off in the United States based on case studies of applications being employed in other countries where UAS technologies are already permitted. .
MAPPS program committee chair Mike Tully (Aerial Services Inc., Cedar Falls, IA), along with other committee members, successfully coordinated an active UAS demonstration during a networking event near the conference site. Attendees were able to view the effective launch, operation, and landing of three different systems, as well as monitor their flight paths as geospatial data was collected over the demonstration area.
The data is currently being processed and will be presented during a webinar hosted by MAPPS in the coming weeks.
In addition to UAS, conference sessions focused on emerging markets, technologies and business trends impacting the geospatial profession.
In a dynamic panel discussion, representatives from Esri, TomTom and Woolpert provided their views on the direction of the geospatial marketplace. All agreed that the demand for geospatial information is changing and that the source of the information is transitioning away from government entities to a more consumer focused clientele. In addition, consumers of geospatial information are less interested in the raw data, but instead, clients are looking for geospatial analytics, solutions and applications through value added content utilizing geospatial data.
The recent change in the small business size standard has brought more competition to the market and reversed roles among large prime contractors and small business subs. MAPPS addressed this topic and others in a session on the teaming relationships between small and large businesses, especially when working on Federal contracts. One significant conclusion was the importance of communication and relationship-building within the framework of the team.. One of those factors, according to the panel, was the need to collaborate among partners on a regular basis. Many firm principals use MAPPS conferences as a venue for such meetings.
MAPPS continues to provide a forum to build new professional relationships and strengthen existing partnerships. In a recent membership survey, MAPPS members indicated that networking is the greatest benefit they receive from their membership and value MAPPS events as such a forum.