Charter for the USA/Drone Workgroup

July 7, 2015


Group Name Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Policy Work Group (UPWG) of the California GIS Council (CGC)
Problem Statement Unmanned Aircraft Systems (remotely piloted aircraft) technology is proliferating. Since the enactment of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, interest in the technology for commercial applications such as mapping, photogrammetry, surveying, engineering, construction, agriculture and natural resource management has increased exponentially.   Entrepreneurs and companies of all sizes are eager to use UAS in their operations. It offers countless benefits in terms of both efficiency and safety.

The federal rule-making process necessary to integrate and govern UAS operations is well underway, but this process is long and final rules are not expected until sometime in the summer of 2016. In the meantime, several states have enacted, or are considering, laws of their own to regulate UAS operations within their borders, including California. At this early stage in the development of UAS technology and the industry forming around it, careful consideration must be given to any laws drafted to govern UAS. Concerns about security, safety, privacy, and environmental impacts should be carefully evaluated and drafted to avoid undermining the great potential of this technology for mapping, infrastructure maintenance, natural resources management, and agriculture.

It is the goal of the Drone Policy Work Group to bring professional experience, judgment, rationality, and collaboration into the regulation process, to help ensure that the potential effects of any UAS-related bills considered by the California Legislature are understood during the legislative process.

Mission Statement The UPWG seeks to:

●       Identify the uses and potential uses of UAS by California’s government agencies, industries, academic and research institutions, non-profits, and private citizens.   Particular focus will be on surveying, mapping, scientific data collection, public and private asset management, and monitoring-related uses.

●       Identify potential costs and benefits attributed to various kinds of UAS applications and operations.

●       Identify the potential concerns with use of UAS, including public security, safety, personal privacy, and environmental disruption (especially noise) that UAS operations may raise, and recommend mitigations.

●       Suggest policy language that encourages technical development and solutions that address those concerns, as UAS research and technologies evolve.

●       Review and analyze proposed legislation concerning UAS technology and make recommendations to help balance the competing concerns and interests with the benefits of UAS operations.

●       Recommend additional legislation or administrative procedures whereby California’s UAS usage is both effective and efficient, while preserving public safety, security and privacy.

Authority The UPWG will report to and receive direction from the CGC. The UPWG is empowered to develop recommendations for technical enactment, ongoing development, and policy leadership by appropriate state agencies and partners.
Ownership Participants volunteer their time to serve because they recognize the need to develop and maintain a supportive framework for this new data acquisition platform and map-enhancing technology while also addressing concerns about its impact.
Communication Strategy The UPWG, or its Subcommittees, plan to meet by teleconference every 3-4 weeks.   Minutes will be posted on the CGC’s Work Group website. Reports will be made to the CGC at each of their meetings or upon request.
Success Indicators Success occurs when:

1)     The UPWG is formalized by crafting a charter that has been accepted by the CGC.

2)     The UPWG’s ssues to consider are defined.

3)     Recommendations are developed that propose standards, best practices, and/or regulation for the safe and effective use of UAS technology in California for mapping-related purposes.

4)     The recommendations are officially adopted by the CGC.

5)     Guidance is provided, in the form of policy and technical statements, for legislation or for administration of UAS mapping regulations.


  • Bruce Joffe, GIS Consultants, Chair
  • Brian Murphy, Altavian
  • Cameron Cloar-Zavaleta, Nixon-Peabody LLP
  • Chris Ringewald, Advance Projects
  • Colin Snow, Drone Analyst
  • David Marshall, Humboldt State University, College of Natural Resources
  • Gretchen West, Drone Deploy
  • Jack Paris, Paris Geospatial, LLC
  • Jason Levine
  • Jim Alford, Field Biology consultant
  • Jim Appleton, Caltrans
  • Kasey Allen, ICF International
  • Pascal Akl, Atkins Engineering
  • Patrick Egan, UAS News
  • Paul Veisze, Department of Parks
  • Pete Roffers, Dept. of Conservation, CA Geological Survey
  • Steve Goldman, Dept. of Fish & Wildlife
Contact Bruce Joffe, GIS ConsultantsGIS.Consultants [at]
Definitions We are using the term “Unmanned Aircraft Systems” (UAS) because this is the nomenclature used by the FAA. We would prefer a gender-neutral name, like “Unpiloted Aircraft Systems” or “Remotely Piloted Aircraft.”   Other, related terms:

  • sUAS – small UAS, aircraft under 55 lbs.
  • UAV – Unmanned (or Unpiloted) Aerial Vehicles; refers only to flying vehicles, while “Systems” also includes control, imagery collection, and analysis software.