Drones and the Surveying Professional

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Drones are a wonderful tool for surveyors. All 50 states require that the surveyor be licensed in that state. In mine, the requirements are 4 years of college and 4 years of experience before taking 16 hours of exams along with annual continuing education. When a surveyor performs a project, he is certifying to the accuracy and standards for the performance of the survey and that the survey was under his direct supervision. For topography surveying, the national standard is that 90% of the data must be within 1/2 of the contour interval.
I am trying to remind readers that just piloting a drone is not a license to provide surveying data services to the public. The surveyor would need to be in complete supervision of the equipment, the data, and processing software to be able to provide his clients with a finished product.
 
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Drones are a wonderful tool for surveyors. All 50 states require that the surveyor be licensed in that state. In mine, the requirements are 4 years of college and 4 years of experience before taking 16 hours of exams along with annual continuing education. When a surveyor performs a project, he is certifying to the accuracy and standards for the performance of the survey and that the survey was under his direct supervision. For topography surveying, the national standard is that 90% of the data must be within 1/2 of the contour interval.
I am trying to remind readers that just piloting a drone is not a license to provide surveying data services to the public. The surveyor would need to be in complete supervision of the equipment, the data, and processing software to be able to provide his clients with a finished product.

Bingo! It's VERY important to note that you should not even use the word "Survey" in any of your communications/marketing unless you are credentialed to actually do that level of work.
 
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Yes, if you are operating commercially, you need the Part 107 remote pilot certificate, or a Section 333 exemption. The drone itself needs to be registered with the FAA for commercial purposes also.
 
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Duly noted that a signed and sealed survey is the business of PLSs, and that the law dictates the requirements for design and build projects. That being said, there is nothing that prevents anyone from collecting and presenting information of a topographic (or other) nature. I doubt someone is going to try and fake a PLS seal on their work product.
 
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In my state, "collection and presenting information of a topographic (or other) nature" would be defined as surveying and as such would require a license. Whether or not a person charged for it would be irrelevant.
 
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Which state? I would think the surveyor's seal would "define" it as a survey. I can do engineering all day long, but without the PE seal and signature it is just math.
 
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Drones are a wonderful tool for surveyors. All 50 states require that the surveyor be licensed in that state. In mine, the requirements are 4 years of college and 4 years of experience before taking 16 hours of exams along with annual continuing education. When a surveyor performs a project, he is certifying to the accuracy and standards for the performance of the survey and that the survey was under his direct supervision. For topography surveying, the national standard is that 90% of the data must be within 1/2 of the contour interval.
I am trying to remind readers that just piloting a drone is not a license to provide surveying data services to the public. The surveyor would need to be in complete supervision of the equipment, the data, and processing software to be able to provide his clients with a finished product.
Are you asserting that if someone is not a licensed surveyor that he may not use his drone to make maps from which his client could make approximate measurements? (Such as from a map produced in maps made easy).
 
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I don't believe providing photos to customers could be considered surveying. And what the customer does with the photos is his business. I use a drone to provide surface information for engineering design and to calculate volumes of materials to be used for payment for work completed. What I provide is much more than photos. As a surveyor that charges for that service, I don't believe that I could hire someone to take the photos without the project being "under the direct supervision of a licensed surveyor" (Surveying Minimum Standards.) The supervision does not require the surveyor to be there, but rather have full information about the methodology and resulting accuracy of the data acquired because ultimately, the surveyor is responsible for the accuracy of the data. What I was trying to say is that a surveyor is not likely to hire a drone operator to photograph a project without supervision and training and that a drone operator should not offer services outside their area of expertise. It would be fine to take the photos. It would be a violation to offer to provide any measurement information to the customer. And I believe that making measurements for GCP could be considered performing surveying as defined in most states.
 
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But what if I provide photographs manipulated in a program like maps made easy?

My client wants to get an idea of the size of a particular area in one of his fields. I'm not going to measure it and say it's 1.5 acres, but I'm going to let him know there is a polygon tool that will allow him to come up with his own measurements.

I'm looking at this as a tool for making planning decisions that don't require the precision of a surveyor.

I believe these types of measurements are already available using google images. What I would be providing would be more detailed images, which might be overlayed over google maps anyway.


I
 
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I don't think that would be defined as surveying either. My initial point was that surveyors would be careful before hiring someone to take photos for their surveying work. There are photogrammetry companies that have provided aerial photo services for high accuracy measurements for decades, but they work in conjunction with surveyors to provide the accuracy required. They hire a surveyor to provide GCP.
 
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Thanks for your responses. I appreciate your perspective on this.

But regarding an image that a drone pilot might provide--if there are known measurements, elevations, or coordinates at particular points within the image, why couldn't the surveyor use that image regardless of whoever was the drone operator? I'm just asking this one out of curiosity.
 
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I guess that if I had known measurements from another surveyor I might use it for some things. But if I certify the work, it has to be under my supervision or I cite the source of the information. I can't really think of a time that this has come up. For example., if I have a copy of a survey, I can use it to find corners, but I still have to measure them myself, and note any differences from record.
 
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Thanks for your responses. I appreciate your perspective on this.

But regarding an image that a drone pilot might provide--if there are known measurements, elevations, or coordinates at particular points within the image, why couldn't the surveyor use that image regardless of whoever was the drone operator? I'm just asking this one out of curiosity.
You are correct. The drone a surveyor would use can be just as accurate as a cheaper drone since it's about using georeferenced reference points and in the end the sureveyor probably uses regularly available software to create the end product. In the end it's about the price the Client is willing to pay vs the risk of not using a sertified surveyor. Same as using a guy with mathematical and engineering knowledge vs paying for professional Engineer.
A farmer will be willing to use use an ungeoreference map to view crop growth where a land developer will require the full monty for Engineering and council submissions...
 
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....Canadian spatial analyst here (retired). I also worked as a cartographer (paid under numerous research grants over the years), but I am NOT a surveyor (though, I have studied extensively the field of geodesy). I had done extensive "field surveying" for research purposes (mapping everything from traditional knowledge, to underwater structures, all related to academic research), and have never used a surveyor in any grants in the 8 countries I have worked in; none of the countries was on/in US territory). There was simply no need for a surveyor, because the projects were never concerned with precise measurements to determine property boundaries nor, for for engineering, nor construction projects.

Some of the data we needed would come from myriad sources (informants on the ground; precision level x, y or z space-based remote sensed data with projection/datum attached; aerial photos rubber-sheeted to existing digital maps; and even survey equipment rented by the research team (sans surveyor) to be used in the field for geo-locating non property boundary/non engineering and non construction-related surface features (either cultural or resource inventories).

There is a definite line in the sand where professional spatial analysts and professional cartographers do not cross over into the field of country-certified/licensed surveyors and vice versa. In other words, a spatial analyst, cartographer or field geographer does not need to hold a surveyors license to do their work and collect their data; nor does a licensed surveyor absolutely have to obtain a MSc or PhD in a spatial analytical or cartographic realm to be able to practice surveying. However, a spatial analyst, cartographer or field geographer may need a remote-sensed product produced by a space agency, commercial aerial photographic company, on edit: and prolifically more recently, inexpensive drones not owned or operated by a surveyor (or, even licensed surveyor derived data, if the research angle is property rights related) to use IN their research...but bringing in a licensed surveyor into a geographical or even an archaeological research project for the project to derive cartographic output from is very rare indeed (unless the research project has a State, tribal, cultural, or historic legal land ownership angle to it)
 
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I think this is a fascinating conversation. Without sounding rude, does anyone think that those preforming drone mapping and taking compensation for it even know or understand it could be a violation? If so, do you think they care? If you don't think they care, what might a professional do in response to such a violation? I mean we could always call the survey/photogrammetry police...........oohh wait right, we don't have those. (looking to raise a point with humor or at least knock it around a couple tenths)
 
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It would be a violation to offer to provide any measurement information to the customer. And I believe that making measurements for GCP could be considered performing surveying as defined in most states.
So you are saying that I cannot take or collect information and provide my client with an estimate of removal volumes because I am not a licensed surveyor? I would be in violation of what?
 
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In North Carolina, you have to be a Licensed Land Surveyor to offer Photogrammetry services. Not all states has this requirement. Check your States laws to be sure. In NC, you could be reported to the State Licensing Board for practicing without a License, which can result in fines levied against you. Not sure if they refer the violation to the State's Attorneys office or not.
 
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In North Carolina, you have to be a Licensed Land Surveyor to offer Photogrammetry services. Not all states has this requirement. Check your States laws to be sure. In NC, you could be reported to the State Licensing Board for practicing without a License, which can result in fines levied against you. Not sure if they refer the violation to the State's Attorneys office or not.
A quick Google search tells me that in North Carolina if I claim to be a professional engineer, or a licensed land surveyor that I better have the proper credentials. If I tell my client that I am not a licensed engineer or surveyor, and that my data/ measurements are approximate, then I am well within my rights to collect, measure and present data for hire.
 
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The State Board of Registration defines Photogrammetry services as Land Surveying. Does not matter if you claim to be Surveyor or not, you are still offering the services of a Land Surveyor and must be Licensed to offer the service. Same thing if somebody offered the service to mark your property lines for fencing, but told the client they were not a Surveyor, so they might not be perfectly marked, but hey, I'm cheaper than a Surveyor, so no problem. You are still in violation of State Statutes, whether you call yourself a Surveyor or not. I see the companies that are fined in my quarterly bulletins from the Board for just his thing all the time.
 

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