From the Editor: Rules for Tools?

What and why are you measuring? Your answers define the offer of professional services. If you don’t own the “what” and the “why” is for someone else’s purpose, then you are most likely engaging in the performance of a professional service. If you don’t own the “what”, and the “why” is personal curiosity, then you might be engaging in trespass. If you own it, well then knock yourself out and measure everything up to the authoritatively marked boundary lines.

For the past six years I’ve been bombarded with questions about UAV operators engaging in the unlicensed practice of surveying. Here’s a pair of thoughts. If you feel that UAV mapping is exclusively under the practice of surveying, then it’s your professional obligation to maintain fluency in dronesmanship. Conversely, if you feel that unregistered UAV operators are undermining your business model, you’re right and the rest of the world really doesn’t care about the protectionism of licensure. Well, that’s how some folks see it anyway. The good news is there are surveyors immersing themselves in UAV technology.

This month’s thought leader is Jim Crume, PLS, in Arizona. Jim has been a longtime leader in professional development. He has authored many books and tutorials for land surveyors. Among them are the “Survey Mathematics Made Simple” and “Survey Mapping Made Simple” book series.

Anyone wanting to get in the drone game can freely navigate to the LearnCST website and check out Crume’s July 22, 2020 article “How to Start a Design Level Drone Mapping Business” under news and updates. Jim really hits it out of the ballpark when he says, “A UAV (drone) is just a tool and in a surveyor’s hand is priceless when it comes to design level survey mapping.”

I am one of 7,350 followers of Jim on LinkedIn. From my perch it’s not how many followers but rather who’s following Crume that really validates his station as an industry leader. Posted threads often dive deep and include valuable dialogue that lesser professionals might harbor as proprietary trade secrets. Jim’s open-source perspective and willingness to share knowledge is paving the way for all of us in the profession.

When the sky was falling last year, Jim grabbed his gear and started mapping it for us. His videos and posts were more than just web-glam and adverts. They were and are a testimony that not everyone stayed home for the great pajama party of 2020. In an ocean of “likes” and “re-shares” Crume has been a fountainhead of original content and a worldwide leader in the UAV component of land surveying.

So where do UAVs fall on the Richter Scale of Regulatory Righteousness? Well, we need to start with a definition, that is if we think we need to regulate them. This is normally where the scientists confuse the lawyers with mathematical expressions, and we get laws that nobody can interpret. So, let’s avoid the hullabaloo and call it like we see it. A UAV mapping rig is nothing more than a ruler with wings. Done! The FAA covers the “wings” and Dr. Michael Dennis can help you with the 0.3048 mark on your ruler. It’s that simple folks. I have enjoyed a great opportunity in attending the NCEES Annual events over the past several years. The UAV issue was bandied around for a brief time. Our colleague and Florida Board P.S. Robin Petzold said it best, “We don’t make rules for tools.”

About the Author

Jason Foose

Jason Foose is a Professional Surveyor licensed in multiple jurisdictions.