Drone Use Takes Off in Land Surveying

shutterstock_633132635As more and more hobbyists use drones to capture memorable video and photos, commercial uses for unmanned aerial vehicles continues to expand at a rapid rate, from monitoring agricultural crops to crowd control by law enforcement.

Among those emerging commercial uses for drones is land surveying. In its spring newsletter Bulletin, the state Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, and Geologists (Board) outlined the growth of drone use in land surveying based on lower costs and availability of easy-to-use software. But the Board also warned of potential drawbacks—such as upstart companies entering into the unlicensed practice of land surveying.

The Board emphasized that the burgeoning industrial drone market—which will exceed $20 billion globally by 2021, according to an analysis by Deloitte—has spurred a variety of companies offering services that include drone flight planning, piloting, and photography. However, for consumers needing a land surveyor for such things as establishing property lines or elevation analysis data, it’s critical to use the services of licensed land surveyors.

In the spring Bulletin, the Board stated: “No matter how field data are acquired, the process of locating any fixed works designed by a civil engineer or determining alignments or elevations is required by law to be performed by, or under the responsible charge of, persons licensed to perform land surveying.”

Furthermore, the Board said, mapping produced by those who may not have the training, education, and experience of a licensed land surveyor has the potential to put the public at risk through faulty data.

Consumers who need the services of a land surveyor should check that the individual or company they are considering is licensed by the state through the Board’s website, www.bpelsg.ca.gov.

Cal Fire Cracks Down on Drones

When working to stop a wildfire, time is of the essence. Firefighters have minutes to hold back a blaze, and any disruptions can cost property and lives.

During the recent Trailhead Fire, firefighting operations were disrupted by a hobby drone flown above the fire to take personal videos and photos. The drone operator was arrested for allegedly interfering with the firefighting efforts in that area.

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), there has been a surge in hobby drones interfering with firefighting efforts over the last two years. Cal Fire recently launched its “If You Fly, We Can’t!” campaign, asking the public to never fly drones near wildfires.

“When a hobby drone flies in the path of our aircraft, we have no choice but to pull back our airtankers and helicopters until the drone is removed,” said Cal Fire Chief Dave Teter, deputy director of fire protection.

Aerial firefighting aircraft, such as planes and helicopters, fly at very low altitudes to drop fire retardant and water onto the fire. If a drone flies in the same air space, fire officials have to pull back the aircraft to avoid midair collisions.

To report irresponsible drone operators flying their drones close to disasters and emergencies, call 1-844-DRONE11 (1-844-376-6311). For more information, visit the Cal Fire website at www.fire.ca.gov.