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Anyone ran into problems for not having a land surveyor state license? 

Providing aerial surveying can sometimes replace boots-on-the-ground topographic surveying. I expect there will (already been) push back that UAV data are not as accurate as ground measurements. For example, would a client prefer state licensed ground crew over a newbie UAV surveyor? How do you justify UAV other than lower cost? 

Thanks, 

Kam

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Uaviator53    272

That's an interesting issue, Kam. Since I began my 333 operation last December, I've only done construction jobs post surveys; for purposes of geomapping construction progress reports. Lately, I've been setting up ground control points using a Trimble GeoXT to include in my geomap processing but am not really sure if it improves the map's precision. I am certainly not comfortable offering UAV surveying services yet...

I also have wondered about pre-construction surveys. I don't think the GPS systems in consumer level drones has the submeter precision required for construction site surveys. But that's just my uninformed opinion as I know squat about surveying. Am considering taking a basic surveying course at a local college, haven't decided if it's worth the effort. 

 

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Tony Rushing    24
2 hours ago, Uaviator53 said:

That's an interesting issue, Kam. Since I began my 333 operation last December, I've only done construction jobs post surveys; for purposes of geomapping construction progress reports. Lately, I've been setting up ground control points using a Trimble GeoXT to include in my geomap processing but am not really sure if it improves the map's precision. I am certainly not comfortable offering UAV surveying services yet...

I also have wondered about pre-construction surveys. I don't think the GPS systems in consumer level drones has the submeter precision required for construction site surveys. But that's just my uninformed opinion as I know squat about surveying. Am considering taking a basic surveying course at a local college, haven't decided if it's worth the effort. 

 

@Uaviator53 what is your website?

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Uaviator53    272

Well, it is not truly surveying,  within the professional meaning of the word. I think I misled you when I said:  "construction jobs post surveys "

I meant they engaged my services after the construction began. They can log on sites like MapsMadeEasy and the company on-site engineers and foreman (and the home office) can track the progress of the project. A few repeat customers. Building a clientele with a new technology is a very hard, long range task. I am a retired cop with two pensions and also teach part time. The UAV business certainly does not pay my bills...yet. I project regular work for me still at least 18 months in the future.

Location is everything. My city is only 50K population, and the entire county is approx. 400,000. A metro area business should do much better.

 

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Hey guys,

I thought I might chime in here. I'm a land surveyor in Idaho, USA, and hold a degree in Geomatics. I am in the process of starting a UAS Department for my current employer which is a Land Surveying, Engineering, and Landscape Architecture firm. My goal is to provide UAS ground data that a licensed land surveyor will feel comfortable signing and stamping. This is the final goal for many of you looking to provide "survey grade" ground data. But, let me tell you, its not as easy as just using centimeter grade GPS or a 1 second Total stations to set GCP's.

A huge part of our job is to go collect ground data that will eventually be used to create a Existing Grade (EG) surface for engineers to use as their base surface to design from. Its the surveyors job to ensure that the ground data is accurate and precise (there is a difference). Think of it as shooting arrows at a target. Precisions is when all of your arrows are in a tight cluster, good grouping, but the grouping is a foot from the center of the target. Accuracy is when the grouping is tight & hitting the center of the target. That's what you're looking for or else a surveyor will not sign it, thus not making its way to an engineers desk for design.

The way to ensure that your data is good is to have checks... lots of checks. UAS work will not replace ground shots taken by a surveyor, but it can dramatically reduce the number of shots they need to take. One thing that is important to keep in mind when planning a UAS project for a survey or an engineer is to have the surveyor at your disposal and at your direction when you are flying. The only way to assure the surveyor that your data is sub-centimeter (or damn close) is to have survey data to compare to. Its my theology that the surveyor needs to know when the new design will be tieing into existing conditions and focus his work in these areas to insure that the tie-in areas are as accurate as possible. This will most likely be curb, gutter, sidewalk, and utilities, manholes especially because they will need invert data on all manholes. This means that they need a dead nuts elevation on the lids to calculate inverts.

So if you can convince them that the ground data that you are providing is within a tenth in the x, y, & z of their data, the likelihood that they will adopt your product is much higher. Survey grade GCP's is required. Using the coordinate system the surveyor is using is required. Comparing your data against their ground data is required. Providing a standard deviation between their data and your data is recommended (surveyors like numbers) or some sort of average variance between the two sets of data.

I hope this explanation is helpful. If you would like more info on this, please feel free to get ahold of me. I'm more than willing to spread the knowledge of my profession with any and all.

Dan@thelandgroupinc.com

Thanks guys!

 

 

 

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Dan, thanks for continuing this discussion. You gave a very thoughtful response. I'm very interested in how UAS can be integrated to support land surveying. Drone data can be seen as an additional layer of data, but it would be misleading for drone surveyors to claim we can completely replace current methods. Unfortunately, in our excitement for this new technology, drone operators are accidently gaining a reputation as "snake oil salesmen" within some industries such as surveying and agriculture. They're very cautious about all the grand promises of quick and cheap data acquisition.

I wonder how and when are the best times to integrate UAS into the existing surveying workflow? Can UAS provide enough cost savings to be worth hiring the extra service/staff? 

I'll contact you via email to talk shop, too. 

Best, 

Kam

  

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Hey Kam,

I'm interested in having a chat with you regarding this topic. I'm more than willing to talk shop with anyone willing to listen. It's an exciting new world of Technology and UAS is going to creep on the survey industry just like GPS did in the 80s. 

Feel free, everyone and all to email me with questions, comments, orconcerns.

Dan@thelandgroupinc.com

Thanks,

Dan

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As a licensed surveyor and mapper engaged in aerial photogrammetry and remote sensing, first from manned aircraft and now drones, I am concerned by the amount of what appears to be unlicensed surveying activity with drones. 

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R Martin    72
On 3/25/2017 at 7:21 PM, streamwhuddle said:

As a licensed surveyor and mapper engaged in aerial photogrammetry and remote sensing, first from manned aircraft and now drones, I am concerned by the amount of what appears to be unlicensed surveying activity with drones. 

I think a lot of people confuse mapping with surveying. They are completely different in both accuracy and legal accountability. Our shop falls between the two in that we can provide a reasonable degree of accuracy (within 1-2cm) but we are not legally accountable for that information. We stick to utilities and leave the legal stuff to professional survey shops. I am unaware of any UAS on the market today that can function as a survey grade instrument on a stand alone basis. All that I am aware of still require the old tried and true methods of boots on the ground and a survey crew to set benchmarks and control.

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Its hard to believe that people are getting away with producing actual surveys when they are unlicensed land surveyors. I'm not buying that. In my mind, a survey is a stamped legal document. Sure, people are producing maps who are not PLS's, but are they determining boundaries, creating legals, know what schedule B items are or know what aliquot means? Very unlikely. I can see your frustration as your/our clientele is dwindling (or being reduced slightly) because drones are impacting the types of jobs you/we get, but I think you're overseeing an important aspect of your concerns.

 

There is a change happening in our profession where lots of people don't want/need to hire a stamp at $250/hr to perform a basic topo or calc quantities, and now they don't have to. Survey grade capable equipment is no longer limited to expensive total stations and GNSS. Similar data can be produced by using a $1000-$2000 drone and a subscription to some cloud based processing software. Before drones and "push-button" processing solutions existed, the majority of maps were created by surveyors and photogrammetrists with fancy stereo-scope monitors. Drones have created a new market of inexpensive, ultra high resolution ground data acquisition that can be created by anyone with a couple bucks. Those types of job are the "low hanging fruit" that we've been spoiled on because we were the only ones able to create that kind of data. That's no longer the case.

 

You must understand that our client audience has split into two categories; Those that need a stamped legal document, and those that don't. Can you charge $250/hr to perform a quantity calc survey? Sure. Can you have the same job done at 5 time the precision using a drone for half the cost? Yes. Does that need to be stamped? No.

 

Times, they are a changin, and our only option is to adapt to the change and figure out how to have drones help our profession grow. We knew that drones were going to creep on our bottom lines, but we've taken that "low hanging fruit" for granted and we must now adapt.

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R Martin    72
23 minutes ago, TLG Dan Inloes said:

Its hard to believe that people are getting away with producing actual surveys when they are unlicensed land surveyors. I'm not buying that. In my mind, a survey is a stamped legal document. Sure, people are producing maps who are not PLS's, but are they determining boundaries, creating legals, know what schedule B items are or know what aliquot means? Very unlikely. I can see your frustration as your/our clientele is dwindling (or being reduced slightly) because drones are impacting the types of jobs you/we get, but I think you're overseeing an important aspect of your concerns.

Its hard to believe that customers are gullible enough to hire an unlicensed firm/individual to produce a document/package that should be able to withstand legal scrutiny just to save a few hundred bucks. But you get what you pay for. All of our work ships with a disclaimer that the product provided is in no way suitable for legal purposes and is for informational purposes only....and yet we are required to provide this information under a FoIA to survey firms who roll this same data into their legal stuff and sell it back to us as fact without any prior discovery efforts. Go figure. At least the reputable firms annotate our data using our shop as the source.

It (UAS work) is still the wild, wild West and the consumer needs to be aware and beware. 

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In a lot of cases, drone data can be higher quality and better than data collected using conventional methods, especially if you have inexperienced field guys doing topo. But, like you said, there is no replacement for the traditional methods. There will always be a need for traditional survey equipment, but just like GNSS, when that was introduced, surveyors were hesitant to use it because is was voodoo. Now its "traditional equipment".

Drones will eventually be in the tool box of most surveyors. In my opinion, it would be foolish not to have one. 

Your concern about producing ground data with a drone and selling it to an engineer and having them use it for design without checking its validity is bad new bears. That is what Streamwhuddle was talking about. If engineers are using that data without it being stamped by a LS, the liability falls on them, the engineer that stamps the design drawings. Typically that liability would fall on the surveyor stamping the topo. At least the drone firm wont get sued, and it will weed out those cnivil engineers. All we can do is play by the rules and hope we done get sued but it is a very good idea to add that kind of disclaimer into your produce package.

 

Any other thoughts? 

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R Martin    72
6 hours ago, TLG Dan Inloes said:

In a lot of cases, drone data can be higher quality and better than data collected using conventional methods, especially if you have inexperienced field guys doing topo. But, like you said, there is no replacement for the traditional methods. There will always be a need for traditional survey equipment, but just like GNSS, when that was introduced, surveyors were hesitant to use it because is was voodoo. Now its "traditional equipment".

Drones will eventually be in the tool box of most surveyors. In my opinion, it would be foolish not to have one. 

Your concern about producing ground data with a drone and selling it to an engineer and having them use it for design without checking its validity is bad new bears. That is what Streamwhuddle was talking about. If engineers are using that data without it being stamped by a LS, the liability falls on them, the engineer that stamps the design drawings. Typically that liability would fall on the surveyor stamping the topo. At least the drone firm wont get sued, and it will weed out those cnivil engineers. All we can do is play by the rules and hope we done get sued but it is a very good idea to add that kind of disclaimer into your produce package.

 

Any other thoughts? 

As with everything else, people are trying to save a buck via "value engineering" a project and it winds up costing someone more in the long haul. But I digress.....

Technology will allow us to use a UAS to provide high quality maps of survey grade sometime in the future. Your job is secure though, because they have yet to invent a machine to physically stamp the final product before it goes out the door.

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Av8Chuck    134

I'm not a surveyor, nor are we trying to provide surveying services but we are working with several surveying and civil engineering companies who have used toy drones to gather data that's processed through a variety of online services and the lack of accuracy is only part of the reason they are choosing not go that route. Not only is it inaccurate but what drives many of them nuts is the inconsistency.     

Doing tests with these companies is really fascinating.  

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Using toy drones and cloud based processing are just a couple aspects of what differentiates non-survey grade data and survey grade data. To create survey grade, consistent, repeatable and reliable data, it's not just a push button deal. Knowledge of photogrammetry and surveying, especially coordinate projections, is a must. Survey grade GCP's and the ability to process your own data is also a must if you're looking for that kind of data. I can tell you that I've produced data with drones that has been within a tenth of survey grade total stations, GNSS, and HD laser scanner data. If you're looking for a good set up to start with, you'll need a good quality drone (DJI, 3DR, etc.), a computer that can turn and burn, and a software package like Pix4d.

This will get you headed in the right direction if your wanting your clientele to include surveyors and engineers.

But, keep in mind that if you sell drone data to an engineer without it being stamped by a surveyor, you risk major liability lawsuits and they risk losing their engineering license if their design goes sideways due to bad ground data. Engineers use survey data for design so that the surveyor is who is liability for the ground data. That's their job, that's their bread and butter. But surveyors don't stamp data they don't trust and can't repeat. That's the hurdle thats most pertinent to drones and surveying.

Edited by TLG Dan Inloes

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Av8Chuck    134

That's certainly been our experience.  

I just get a chuckle when you use "good quality" in the same sentence as DJI and 3DR...

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R Martin    72
On 4/1/2017 at 0:42 AM, TLG Dan Inloes said:

Using toy drones and cloud based processing are just a couple aspects of what differentiates non-survey grade data and survey grade data. If you're looking for a good set up to start with, you'll need a good quality drone (DJI, 3DR, etc.), a computer that can turn and burn, and a software package like Pix4d.

It is a good start but you probably want to get away from DJI hardware if you are planning on surveying and move over to something like the FireFly6 Pro. It will cover a lot more ground in one flight and seriously cut your time on a job down. Time is money after all...

 

https://www.birdseyeview.aero/

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I'd have to disagree. DJI offers a wide range of drones that are more than capable of producing survey grade data. The vertical landing and take off is pretty legit, but in order to create survey grade imagery, speed is actually more important than you might think, but in the contrary. High speed imagery mixed with non perfect lighting creates blurry imagery, even when using the high dollar metrically calibrated cameras. Having longer flight times at a slower ground speed is what is needed. DJI P4P is a great starting point. 23mp camera and 25 min of flight time. Run it at 10 to 12 mph and you're in biz. 

Just my 2 cents.

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Av8Chuck    134

Anytime people debate which tool to use for a particular profession the discussion often focuses on the wrong issues.  Does it matter - PC/Mac. Nikon/Canon or 2K/4K etc..

Being a professional is not about the drone you use, its about what problem do you solve and will people pay you to solve it.  Also everyone evaluates technology through their own prism, service providers, manufacturers, systems integrators, end users, all often come to very different conclusion about the same technologies.  

Another key to profitability is predictable future wealth.  Once I have something that works how can I scale it or broaden its mission.  DJI is a vertically oriented, closed product line.  No DJI accessory can be used on non DJI drones, and you can't integrate non DJI accessories on DJI drones.  Not all pixels are created equally so if I wanted to use something other than a DJI camera on a P4 that has more than a tiny sensor and plastic lens I can't.  Not only that, I can't even use batteries from a P3 in a P4 or an Inspire on an M100 or an M200.  

Professionals need tools that are open and extensible, so if I want to mount a 50MP camera that can be controlled with the drones avionics and GCS, I can.  If I need to reconfigure the drone to lift more, I can.  If I need to be able to edit or modify missions in realtime, I can and if I need to be able to perform the same mission with a different drone with the same repeatable outcome, I can.  That is not DJI.

Also, professionals have to be concerned about liability, they have too much to lose.  No professional should be using a drone that does not have hardware redundancy.  If any part of a quad-rotor fails it crashes and there's nothing you can do about it.   

So the issue isn't what drone to use, its more the application of the drone and what drone can I use as a platform to build a business?   

Building a business based on toy drones is a very risky proposition. 

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GAProctor    1

I think one thing being missed here is what does the law say. I know it differs in each state, but here in Wa the practice of Land Surveying is only allowed by a licensed individual and is defined as:

RCW 18.43.020

Definitions....(9) "Practice of land surveying" means assuming responsible charge of the surveying of land for the establishment of corners, lines, boundaries, and monuments, the laying out and subdivision of land, the defining and locating of corners, lines, boundaries, and monuments of land after they have been established, the survey of land areas for the purpose of determining the topography thereof, the making of topographical delineations and the preparing of maps and accurate records thereof, when the proper performance of such services requires technical knowledge and skill.

I think the last part is the kicker. If you are not licensed, and someone decides that your performance was not "proper" then questions are going to arise about the required knowledge and skill and you could get burned. I think the way avoid this is to not make assurances of accuracy that you cannot defend. If the deliverable does not require a standard of accuracy that would require a surveyors knowledge and skill to determine and defend, then doing un-licensed work should be fine. Making maps of existing  conditions or possibly even site plans for applications, where no sub-foot dimensions are required are likely just fine. As soon as it starts to be used for design purposes though, it likely requires a surveyor. In this state, they are particularly touchy if any dimensions provided have anything to do with the property lines, in which case a licensed surveyor is required.

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Skyoti    2

Many good comments here. I'm a senior surveyor technician in the DFW region, I fly a  sophisticated drone with photogrammetry and LIDaR capabilities, and I have to agree with what I've seen here.  Many newbies to the drone industry are thinking they can simply purchase a drone and some inexpensive software and start producing survey grade photogrammetry.  It just doesn't work like that. As has been stated above, no photogrammetry will replace the accuracy that an experienced field crew with proper survey equipment can provide, nor does LIDaR...presently.  However, it can be a visual aid to those crews, technicians, engineers, and developers.  It's a great tool to add to our toolbox.  I would think that any engineer who designs any development with a simple aerial topograph with no ground truthing is taking a huge risk. He might want to up the amount on his insurance coverage for his work.  One thing I tell all the newbies is this,... you have to learn the science.  A UAV is nothing but a pick up truck carrying your equipment.   Your clients aren't paying for you fly a really cool drone over their property. They're paying for the science.  They're paying for what they hope is high grade imagery. Photogrammetry,or LIDaR both need to be top quality, ortho rectified, and as accurate as can be made to be.  It takes experienced survey personnel a long time to learn how to collect that imagery and produce accurate , quality aerial maps from that imagery.  I'm finding that this alone is turning many away from the engineering applications of the drone industry.  There are plenty of other applications out there they can do and still make money.  They just need to keep in mind that they need to learn some science behind whatever particular industry or application they intend to pursue.  People are going to be reluctant to hire skateboard man to fly his drone around and take pictures. They want to know that your professionals and you know what you're doing.

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R Martin    72
On 3/30/2017 at 10:21 AM, TLG Dan Inloes said:

In a lot of cases, drone data can be higher quality and better than data collected using conventional methods, especially if you have inexperienced field guys doing topo. But, like you said, there is no replacement for the traditional methods. There will always be a need for traditional survey equipment, but just like GNSS, when that was introduced, surveyors were hesitant to use it because is was voodoo. Now its "traditional equipment".

Drones will eventually be in the tool box of most surveyors. In my opinion, it would be foolish not to have one. Any other thoughts? 

I think that for the foreseeable future, surveying is still a viable and profitable field to enter. I do not see technology replacing the boots on the ground in the near term. There is always going to be a need for a licensed pair of eyes and a brain to ensure that the data being provided will withstand legal scrutiny.

That being said, Texas is a great market to enter the field. Most of the old hands are retiring or on their way out and the turnover in the state in the survey field make this a great place to get started.

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kwalker    3

Hey everyone,

Here where I work we don't take the drone into too much consideration when it comes the quality of the products that we can provide, granted our sUAS is very high end. We have only been using a fixed wing aircraft made by Trimble that is specifically designed for surveying. We know that the quality of our products depends on how it is processed and gathered. We use survey grade GNSS receivers or conventional total stations to set out GCPS and to observe the more critical areas of a survey when it comes to elevation, especially when it needs to match some existing grade somewhere. The camera onboard is also very high quality, not just a "UHD Camera".

We use the Trimble UX5 HP which logs a static GNSS vector as it flies and must be run with a local static base station logging it's own Data. Trimble claims that their processing Software (TBC) paired with this particular drone eliminates the need for GCPs through the use of Post Processed Kinematic methods that they derived. 

Trimble is well known to the surveying field to be high end surveying equipment and is probably blindly trusted when they make these statements. We, however have found through our own experiments that it is simply not true. I have come across horizontal differences of more than a foot and vertically even more when comparing a processed flight with survey grade GCPs to one without them. 

This, a survey grade company (Trimble), still doesn't yield the accuracy needed to rely on for any type of design without the use of survey grade GNSS receivers and the knowledge to understand the shortcomings of the photogrammetry performed. This, in my mind does not bode well for new services such as PX4d to be reliable for survey grade data yielded from a point cloud they generate. I agree that they can take a point cloud and make it useful but to rely on it for photogrammetry scares me. We cautiously use TBC and understand that in order for a survey to receive our stamp that it must be controlled well. 

We not only use our system for Topographic surveys but for Alta surveys as well as supplemental data. Deriving the feature line work and most of the surface (if requested) is done along with our survey technicians. 

It is clear to me that the data that can be gathered by sUAS can be very accurate if processed correctly, but that it does not eliminate the need for ground work, nor the need for a licensed surveyor to produce and examine the data. 

I agree with R Martin above that surveying is still a very profitable profession to enter, having just entered it myself as a 24 year old LSIT. The need for surveyors is growing very quickly as well in New Mexico. 

Someone said above that it would be foolish not to get into the newest technology available as a surveyor and I couldn't agree more. Surveyors for the most part are not young people and do not like to have to learn to work with new technology. That is where we young surveyors can help the previous generation while they help us to understand how to determine a boundary, and how to use all of the equipment they have been accustomed to. The Idea of GNSS was rejected fairly widely and thought of only as a fad, those that believed this were missing out on increasing profitability in a lot of projects. Don't let this technology pass you up as a fad. It is a great tool that we use frequently and it will only continue to grow and improve.

 

Sorry if I seemed to jump around.

-Kyle

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