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


Thanks for making this post. Do you have in new info to follow up? I would really appreciate any new input you have.


I’m sad to hear that CA surveyors are taking this route. We have done the legal trail in Texas and the simple truth is that if you are not filing for a permit or submitting for record on the city, county, state or federal level then you have nothing to worry about. Even if you provide guidance to a contractor for grading it is on the contractor to do their proper filing for stormwater pollution prevention, but helping someone out with private property that doesn’t require permitting. Even if you are doing some “engineering” does not require notification or approval.

One of our primary uses of the drones is to compare existing ground before starting construction with the contours as supplied by the engineer. We have over 300 missions and have never had an issue. The worst thing that happened was that he was unhappy with us because he had to go out and reset control. Good luck!


Don’t be bullied. Best policy is to ignore threats unless from law enforcement. Make no contact. Even attorneys will bully. It is all talk until they file a lawsuit at which point they will have to come up with a LEGAL means to file a lawsuit. If you do make contact ask them to cite the laws they are speaking of so you can verify them.

They have no authority over you and even if you are doing something like using ‘their terms’ for advertising most time those are just words, not trademarks.

Use common sense. Do not imply you are a licensed surveyor or anything else unless you are licensed. Do not imply you can provide engineering drawings. Beyond that you can describe your work as anything you so desire.

Hopefully you are a FAA licensed UAV pilot.


Hi, I was just scrolling through and thought I would add my personal experience as a UNLICENSED surveyor that practices under a LICENSED surveyor in California. Additionally, I have assisted design professionals on how to respond to the Board of Engineers legal inquires. I am not a attorney and this is not legal advice, this is simply my opinion based on indirect personal experiences with the Board of Engineers.
The best advice given to the OP is that offered by the those persons in this thread that appear to be professionally involved in the “practice of land surveying” (this is exact wording used by the Board) or at least know enough to realize that drone mapping is extremely regulated in California. The laws governing UAV imagery mapping i.e. photogrammetry have been on the books for a long time, regardless of how that imagery is captured (manned vs. unmanned). Naturally the Board takes a very conservative view on what constitutes photogrammetry and thus the Board would require a drone operator/pilot to either be licensed to practice land surveying or to be under the direct supervision of one (ie “responsible charge”) while capturing their data sets.
Personally, I do not think a UAV operator is a danger to the general public if they are offering “models” and there is a clear understanding of this by all parties. However, I am not the Board and I can tell you from indirect personal experience that if you have been warned by the Board for what they view as violating the law then you best consult an attorney before proceeding with drone mapping / “modeling”. Again, from indirect personal experience, I can tell you THAT IN FACT (contrary to the views of others on this thread) the Board of Engineers can and do fine unlicensed individuals for violations of Board Rules, California Business Code and the Land Surveyors Act. I am not claiming the Board is right is doing so but they do have that authority. Furthermore, the Board can and does on a regular basis refers cases to the Attorney Generals office for prosecution (just check their website for a long list of actions). Please take this as a disclaimer and I hope it helps others to avoid legal problems, if you want to create maps or “models” with your drone consider working under a licensed land surveyor who is able and willing to help keep you on the right side of the law.
BTW, I capture data sets and create maps only under the supervision of a California Licensed Land Surveyor.
Good luck, PM for more information or if you need a referral to an attorney in the LA area who has won decisions over the Board.


…You dont think Google hired or consulted with the appropriate licensed professionals on the data sets they created?


I doubt it. You are welcome to track down and determine definitively.


There is your answer right there, DD is not responding because their lawyers realize the legal exposure they have in taking a position…See my long post on this thread, capturing imagery with a UAV is photogrammetry and thus regulated by state law, this has been on the books much longer then drones have been around…


Pure speculation on the situation. California definitely has more conservative laws than we do in Texas, but in fact drone usage is not governed by the Board. They are not even associated with any of the Clubs or attorneys that cover drone law. The individual stated that he never verbalized or promoted his business with the term “Survey” and in such is providing imagery. He has a Part 107 license and that is what is required by Federal Law at this point. Furthermore he does not disturb, analyze or dedicate any control or property bounds and surely does not try to have that information recorded so there is no basis for an RPLS Board to even contact the individual other than to learn and get onboard. Then they can legislate who has control and authority. Refer to Jonathan Ruprecht PA.



Who said drones were regulated by the Board of Engineers? = I wrote photogrammetry is regulated by state law, this has nothing to do with the method of data collection (unmanned craft).
Just because someone doesn’t advertise their service with technical jargon doesn’t mean their work isnt subject to the preview of regulatory authorities.
I am not saying the Board is being fair (but perhaps they are, not sure), I am saying they are within their legal right to review matters in which unlicensed individuals are performing aerial photogrammetry. This is about rule of law, not about what feels right.


Regulatory Authorities of what? Photogrammetry?



The board of Engineers, land surveyors and geologist regulate the practice of both land surveying and aerial photogrammetry in California per state law: the land surveyors act.


Oh, that’s not good! Can you provide that documentation? If you read the drone legislation for California there is no governing entity other the the FAA. Local policy has not yet been applied. I bet none of the pilot on demand services know this…


The ugly and the good… The definition is ludicrous. Basically every person that has ever used a level (or their thumb) on a piece of property is acting as a licensed surveyor. Someone needs to find someone else with big pockets and get this vetoed. Beyond that we do not practice any other functions under the definition. In my case however I do work within the engineering section so even if Texas wanted to do something idiotic like this I would be exempt. Haha.

Under definitions of a surveyor.
(b) Determines the configuration or contour of the earth’s surface, or the position of
fixed objects above, on, or below the surface of the earth by applying the principles of
mathematics or photogrammetry.

  1. Exemption - surveys made exclusively for geologic or landscaping purposes
    Surveys made exclusively for geological or landscaping purposes, which do not involve
    the determination of any property line do not constitute surveying within the meaning of this


I think your on the right track, meaning that in California the Board has quite extensive powers as it relates to the practice of photogrammetry. My posts are an attempt to bring this to the attention of DD users so they dont get into trouble.

DD WILL NOT LOOK OUT FOR YOUR LEGAL INTERESTS, that is every individual persons responsibility.

I have a personal contact at the Board of Engineers and through that channel of discussions I came to appreciate that working under a licensed land surveyor was best for me and the general public.


Good news is that for 90% of the people that just supply a 2D map and volumetrics of materials are still good to go. Just don’t provide any topographical maps.


With all due respect, if your in Texas, that may apply but your advice may not apply (as is my opinion) to other states.

In California, all photogrammetry offered for hire is regulated by state law regardless of final map type or means of collection (manned vs unmanned). I dont make the laws nor agree with them at times, but I do understand and respect them.
BTW, 90% of drone pilots in California dont understand the process and standards for creating a industry acceptable map…another reason to get licensed or work under a license before offering these services.


I think I stated plenty of times what state I was in, but i agree that if you have no Engineering, Surveying or Construction experience you have no business providing these services.