When discussing survey mapping deliverables using a drone with others the subject comes up as to whether or not they are products that require a Professional Land Surveyor (PLS) to certify.
The short answer is YES. Each state in the USA has regulatory requirements that mandate that a PLS is needed to produce surveying deliverables. This requirement protects the public so that only qualified individuals are doing surveying and survey mapping that meets specific guidelines and accurancies.
Survey mapping, volume calculations, contour generation, ground control points are all surveying products that most states in the USA require a licensed PLS to perform and/or oversee. You need to be a licensed surveying professional, work under a licensed surveying professional or team with a licensed surveying professional to offer these type of services. Check with your state to insure that you are complying with the proper regulations and licensing requirements.
Can an FAA Certified Remote Pilot do survey mapping? Yes they can as long as they are working under a PLS.
Can a PLS fly a drone to do survey mapping? Only if they are certified by the FAA as a Part 107 Remote Pilot.
Flying a commercial drone and producing a survey mapping product are two different things. Each one has regulatory requirements that need to be met.
Can an FAA Certified Remote Pilot certify a survey mapping product? No they cannot. The FAA certification only gives the remote pilot authorization to fly a drone. It does not give them authority to certify to any mapping product.
A PLS routinely uses survey technicians to survey and map land on a daily basis. An FAA Certified Remote Pilot would be a survey technician when performing survey mapping under a PLS.
Survey mapping is an art. It takes expert knowledge on camera parameters, flying height, speed, flight lines with the correct overlap to meet the accuracy needed for a particular project, proper ground control positions, horizontal and vertical control to meet the project requirements.
Being able to fly a drone for survey mapping with automated apps does not give someone the knowledge or experience needed to meet the project requirements. Years of training and experience is needed to fully understand the surveying requirements to achieve the accuracies needed to produce a surveying product.
Surveying is not just about property boundaries.
Survey mapping needs to be certified that it meets certain accuracy requirements. Only a PLS licensed by a state can make these certifications.
Below is a typical accuracy statement, control information and certification for a topographic mapping project that I completed recently.