This is a short introduction to the open flightmaps Association or OFMA
The mission of the project is to develop and maintain a universal database of aeronautical data, in order to facilitate the rendering of high quality VFR maps to assist the general aviation community.
As the name suggests, a key part of the project is that it is an open source project which will coordinate the work of a large community of volunteer contributors. The OFMA is a “not for profit” organization that has no commercial interest.
The structure of the OFMA database closely follows the AIXM Model recommended by Eurontrol. Proprietary software considerably facilitates data entry.
There are two types of contributor:
- Originating Contributors, and
- Reviewing Contributors
The Originating Contributor will work with a proprietary client software, to be downloaded into his computer. He will find the raw data from whatever sources are available and use the software to commit it to the database. Most of the data can be derived from the AIP corresponding to the relevant Flight Information Region, where it is included in a text format. The client software considerably facilitates the input of data, making it a comparatively simple task, and commits it directly into the OFMA Database.
Once the data has been input into the OFMA Database it can be viewed and reviewed by any member of the public, who will act as Reviewing Contributors. If such a reviewer notices some aspect that he considers can be improved, or even is incorrect, he can submit a recommendation for a change to be made. The recommendation will be processed by a semi-automatic review procedure, and if approved, the change will be committed.
Data and Information
Throughout the project it is important to understand the distinction made between the terms “Data” and “Information”. In general raw data has little or no value, and often is not subject to copyright. In this sense we can consider the raw aeronautical data a bit like the letters of the alphabet; on their own they do not tell us very much. But once such letters have been joined together into a set order to form words, and these words are in turn assembled to form a story, the data gets transformed into information, which is normally very valuable and subject to copyright. It is the same with the aeronautical data in the OFMA database: the raw data is not much use until it has been processed, for instance to render a map, after which it becomes valuable.
To demonstrate this principle, the main sponsors of the OFMA project have agreed to sponsor the rendering of aerodrome plate packages from the data in the database. These plate packages are available for free, once the corresponding data has been committed. Consequently the number of plate packages available will increase as the project develops.
Form a legal point of view the database is administered by the open flightmaps Association, which is a “Not for Profit” organization registered in Salzburg, in Austria. This association has the support of two universities, several associations of pilots and other organizations within the General Aviation community, and of course has the support of the software companies who have made this project possible.
There are a few legal aspects that must be understood.
The first is that to protect the project from unnecessary potential legal problems in the future, it is important that every contributor agrees to the OFMA Contributors’ Agreement, whereby he agrees to grant the open flightmaps Association a copyright license over his work, for free. The copyright remains the property of the contributor, but he grants the OFMA a license to use the data contributed. It was stated previously that raw data is often not protected by copyright, so in most cases this license from the contributor is unnecessary from a copyright point of view, but the OFMA needs to have the agreement of the contributor to cover the work carried by him.
General Users’ License
Next it is important that all users enter into the General Users’ license. This grants the users the right to use the database for any use, including commercial exploitation, free of charge. But here are two very important conditions for this free use of the data.
- The first is that the open flightmaps database must always be attributed as the source of the data. This similar to most other open source data projects.
- The second condition is more unusual. It requires all users to report any errors back to the open flightmaps Association as soon as they become aware of the error, and to suggest any corrections or enhancements to the data if they notice something that could be improved. It also requires a data user who has developed an application which uses the OFMA database, to provide a system or tool by which his end users can also report errors and commit corrections or improvements to the data.
In this way it will be possible to ensure the continued accuracy of the data. This requirement to report back errors for their correction is quite unusual, and it is hoped that it will be an important distinguishing feature, which will make the open flightmaps database the best source for VFR aeronautical data in the world.
Local Support Partner
One of the basic concepts behind using volunteer contributors is to get data from sources as close to the “grass-roots” a possible, in order to ensure the accuracy of the data. In this way the database will incorporate a richness of local knowledge which otherwise would not be possible. Consequently the OFMA has decided to rely on local partners for support, as they can use their indigenous contacts to support the project. Local supporting partners will be responsible for recruiting new originating contributors, for training them and for coordinating their work.
Certification and Disclaimer
The OFMA takes no responsibility for, and gives no assurances in respect of, the accuracy, completeness and relevance of the data, and categorically states that the database from which the file has been derived has not been certified for aeronautical or any other use, and as a result the file or any information derived from it should never be used as a primary source for navigation.