Friday, July 29, 2011

COGO Submits Comments to FCC on LightSquared.

COGO, of which MAPPS is a member, has commented to the FCC that the application by LightSquared will adversely affect activities of the geospatial community.

MAPPS urges member firms and geospatial professionals to submit comments to the FCC. The deadline to submit is tomorrow, July 30.

Monday, July 25, 2011

GPS is Being Threatened, LightSquared Update

GPS is being threatened. An application to the Federal Communications Commission by the firm LightSquared, to gain spectrum access for a planned wholesale 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) wireless broadband communications network integrated with satellite coverage across the United States, has raised concerns from a broad cross-section of GPS users due to LightSquared’s interference with GPS.

Earlier this year, MAPPS filed a comment with the FCC in opposition to the LightSquared application.

Additionally, MAPPS was active in gaining unanimous approval of the Coalition of Geospatial Organizations (COGO) for a letter in opposition to LightSquared and FGDC or NGAC

An excellent resource for information on this issue is the Coalition to Save Our GPS.

While FCC previously granted LightSquared a conditional waiver, the FCC also directed that
LightSquared conduct tests to determine the extent of the interference with GPS.

The Technical Working Group (TWG), which consisted of LightSquared and representatives from the GPS user and manufacturer communities tested more than 100 different GPS devices. The tests, conducte in several test environments, found network deployment proposed by LightSquared would indeed cause interference to millions of GPS users. FCC released the report on June 30 and issued a new call for comments. Such comments are due July 30.

MAPPS has again submitted comments. Individual geospatial professionals, as well as MAPPS member firms, are encouraged to submit comments of their own.

Meanwhile, Congress is moving to prevent FCC approval of the LightSquared application. The appropriations bill to fund the FCC for fiscal year 2012 (which begins October 1, 2011) includes a provision limiting FCC’s funding until it resolves the concerns of possible widespread harmful interference to the GPS system before giving final approval to the application.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Don't Make LiDAR Criminal

As reported in LiDAR News yesterday, MAPPS has be working on an issue with LiDAR techonology and the FAA over the past several months. We have developed a one-pager  which has been distributed to members of the geospatial profession and to Members of Congress.

The U.S. Senate has approved an amendment to the FAA Reauthorization Bill, S. 223, and the House of Representatives has passed a free-standing bill, H.R. 386, to make it a criminal offense for anyone who “aims the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, or at the flight path of such an aircraft.” The legislation defines a “laser pointer” as “any device designed or used to amplify electromagnetic radiation by stimulated emission that emits a beam designed to be used by the operator as a pointer or highlighter to indicate, mark, or identify a specific position, place, item, or object.” However, this language was NOT included in H.R. 658, the FAA Reauthorization Bill, and therefore reconciliation is needed during a House-Senate Conference.

MAPPS is deeply concerned that this definition is too broad and vague. It could include LiDAR (Light Detecting And Ranging), a state-of-the art mapping technology that can measure the distance to or other characteristics of an area of land or an object by illuminating the area or item with light beams or pulses from a laser. LiDAR indeed uses a directed beam of light to identify a specific position, but does NOT pose the safety threat of the lasers intended by the legislation. A LiDAR device could be defined as pointing a laser beam, however LiDAR devices are not pointers.

LiDAR is a technology developed by NASA that is now fully commercialized. It is used for accurate floodplain mapping, conducting “danger tree surveys” of overhead power lines, measuring vegetative cover or biomass for climate change analysis and hundreds of other applications. There are more than 50 aerial LiDAR systems in operation in the United States.

One of the major users of LiDAR is the FAA itself. The FAA uses Single Point LiDAR devices to monitor airports throughout the United States. These devices point at aircraft for the purpose of getting the position of the aircraft during ground movement on the taxiway. LiDAR services, contracted by individual airport authorizes, utilize Stationary Tripod Scanners to survey the interiors and exteriors of structures at airports, Airborne LiDAR is used to conduct obstruction surveys, master planning and pavement surveys of runways. Each of these FAA-related operations would be in violation of the legislative language. In addition, USACE, NGA, USGS, FEMA, NOAA, and other agencies contract for LiDAR.

The legislation is clear in its intent to prohibit inappropriate use of the laser pointer, particularly when the objective is to disrupt or harm a pilot in the cockpit. With a slight modification, the legislative language could meet its intent, without impeding the safe and legitimate used of LiDAR technology.
JUNE 2011 UPDATE: Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Randy Babbitt announced June 1 that the FAA will begin to impose civil penalties against people who point a laser into the cockpit of an aircraft. Today’s interpretation reflects the fact that pointing a laser at an aircraft from the ground could seriously impair a pilot’s vision and interfere with the flight crew’s ability to safely handle its responsibilities. The maximum civil penalty the FAA can impose on an individual for violating the FAA’s regulations that prohibit interfering with a flight crew is $11,000 per violation.

MAPPS urges that Congressional intent clearly state that LiDAR technology is not a danger to aviation operations, and that this technology enables public policy decisions. This Congressional intent should be entered into the Congressional Record and/or the Conference Report via a colloquy and/or by an official statement.

The following modification is respectfully recommended:

“any device designed or used to amplify electromagnetic radiation by stimulated emission that emits a beam designed to be used by the operator as a pointer or highlighter to indicate, mark, or identify a specific position, place, item, or object.

For Further Information Contact: MAPPS John “JB” Byrd, Government Affairs Manager
1856 Old Reston Avenue, Suite 205, Reston, VA 20190 P: 703-787-6996; F: 703-787-7550; E:;