Ordered to quit offering ALL mapping services from CA Board of Surveyors

Have recently been ordered to discontinue ALL mapping services or face a misdemeanor or fine from CA Board for Professional Engineers & Land Surveyors. Any advice? Have rebranded everything as “modeling” and even added a lengthy disclaimer that we are not offering surveying services, are not licensed, and do not offer anything in regards to measurement of land. They are now insisting that I cannot offer any “ground surface models” as that constitutes civil engineering which again require a license. Not sure where to go from here outside of just discontinuing to offer any 3D mapping or “modeling”.

Sorry to hear that. My suggestion would be to post this on this site on Facebook to see what others are doing regarding this type of situation.

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See comments in the following FB groups:

  • Aerial Mapping and Geomatics
  • sUAS Commercial Mapping Pilots
  • UAV Legal News & Discussion
  • Pix4D Users Group
  • Agisoft Photoscan Group

Hi, this sounds like they are trying to bully you, I cannot see how “Board” that you are not part of can possibly “fine” you. What country are you in?

I’m kinda surprised there hasn’t been a response to this thread by DroneDeploy yet. I’d be curious to hear their take on it. I imagine they’re having to get with legal first. :smiley:

This has been posted on many of the FB groups and although there has been some response from some obvious “surveyors”, there does not appear to be any concrete evidence that anyone is committing any legal offence. As a “qualified” plasterer, for example, I could set up a union but if you decided not to join my union, would it be legally acceptable for me to “fine” you if I were to see you plaster your friends wall?

Yeah i have found the lack of response from DroneDeploy odd. Have reached out to them through various channels and i get crickets. You would think they would have something to add as they clearly market this stuff as survey grade yet do not mention that a surveyors license might be necessary if using the service for profit. Given the popularity of the app, I can’t imagine this is the first time they have come across this. But who knows, maybe it is and like you said they are conferring with legal.

Hi @Syrahcaz,

You bring up a good point, and I’m sorry that the CA Board of Surveyors ordered you to quit offering all mapping services.

Did you initially call or advertise your maps as Survey Grade prior to the CA Board of Surveyors reaching out to you?

Thank you,


We never marketed our services as survey grade. Even added a disclaimer that we are not land surveyors and any measurements included were estimates and approximations.

Hi @Syrahcaz,

I’m going to PM you, so we can discuss this further.

Thank you,

They are trying to bully you. If your running a legit business and do not sell surveying and have the disclaimer you spoke of Id tell them to go pound sand and not in those nice words. CA. is the number one biggest PIA state for just about everything these days. Stand your ground and let them know to bring on your lawsuit as you are within the full scope of running this business. Furthermore, its not up to them to tell you your facing a misdemeanor or whatnot they are not a court… They are a organization that feels like they are loosing business to drone operators because they are providing better and cheaper services. I have run into crap from people and I state I am not a surveyor but can have our services certified by a certified surveyor if needed but we do not promote “surveying services”. Just because you offer a surface model doesn’t mean crap.

@Nipul 10-4

@candidskyproductions Appreciate the input. We are currently looking into legal counsel just in case. Will keep this thread updated as we obtain more info.

This is not a “union” type thing. It’s a “licencing” type thing much in the same way you can’t practice law, medicine or build houses for sale without a license. I wonder if a developer wants to do mapping for their own internal use if that can be done without a license. I have a friend who is very knowledgeable in R/C who is doing mapping for his massive land development company. He’s basically hiring himself because he likes to do it. I wonder what they’d think of that?

I cannot stress how important licencing issues are. We are a civil engineering firm and the requirements in Georgia for a surveyor are so strict and all encompassing all I can really do is use drones to replace google earth and occasional use it to ground truth stormwater flow. That’s been fine for us, but I’d love to do some “approximate contours” or something that clearly isn’t survey grade but is conceptually fine. We won’t touch it with a 10 foot pole right now though.

I noted at a recent DroneDeploy presentation and in many of their slide decks they talk about replacing surveyors with drones…any surveyor that sees that is going to freak. I think of drones as a complimentary technology to surveying (when not used by actual surveyors).

I’ve followed a number of these discussions on FB other forums and hear the traditional surveyor’s comments. Just wondering however…

If we work with a local construction firm helping them with volumetric measurement and site mapping. We lay out the GCPs, they mark them with their Tremble rover (including a number of check points). We process data and deliver stating similar disclaimer as above.

This wouldn’t be used for official property boundaries or anything else of the sort. They looking for a non-intrusive way to analyze excavation progress (and quick turnaround).

Hi @Syrahcaz

Sorry to hear you’re having these issues - that sounds really frustrating.

Unfortunately, neither me nor my team are authorized to offer any legal advice. We can reach out to our networks to see if we can make any recommendations on council. We’d also love to learn more about this issue. Please DM me with your email address or phone number so we can learn more.

I received the exact same letter about 6 months ago. We are landscape architects who have been using drone mapping as a design tool to gather site topography and 3d models for reference measurements. They demanded we remove any reference to Aerial mapping or 3d scanning from our website which left us with aerial photography. We clarified that we only use this technology in the office and that it never displaces a true site survey but they were persistent to see it removed from our services. We removed it to avoid any legal actions that they had threatened. I’m definitely interested in Dronedeploys thoughts.

Guys. You do understand the difference between being threatened by a professional association and being threatened by law enforcement, correct? If what you advertise and deliver is clearly stipulated as well as you say it is why not continue as usual until contacted to cease and desist by the state attorney general’s office. That has been my response for the last couple of years and guess what. No contact from the AG as of yet.

I agree it would be interesting to have input from an actual attorney or someone that has consulted one on this issue.

Good luck!

It’s very good to hear that professional bodies in these jurisdictions are actually turning their attention to enforcing the law!

If you wish to offer the services that you apparently are so keen on offering then why don’t you as others have had to to do, go and attend university, spend time in service under a professional, sit qualification examinations and become qualified. Why are you so keen on taking short cuts?

I’m continually amazed at some of the nonsense I am hearing from drone users who consider themselves experts in surveying, mapping, modelling and similar fields and yet really haven’t much of an idea about the fields of expertise that they are actually dealing with.

I hope the “threats” are actually backed up by prosecutions so that in future the “threats” will be taken more seriously.

@Daniel777 I agree completely that if a drone service is offering products that can only be legally supplied by licensed surveyors then they should be brought to task.

However, those are not necessarily the services in discussion here. If you ask (some) surveyors, a nadar image with some rough elevation and lat-long information is within the realm of lic. surveyors. This is clearly false because Google and many others offer it openly on the internet at free and paid levels. The local survey assoc has not threatened Google would be my guess.

What has changed in the last years is that tech has made it much easier and cheaper for average folks to get helpful information without needing to hire a surveyor. The scale at which this is happening is cutting into the surveyor’s pocketbook and they (most) don’t like it one bit. This progression has happened to many other professions. It’s nothing new.

Laws are meant to protect the public from harm, both physical and financial. They do not exist to protect the income of surveyors. It will be interesting to see how this shakes out in court.