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Mapping and licensed surveying? Can we map and model?

JDL

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So where is the line? I’ll admit I got super pumped to narrow down what software I was going to use for making 3D models and orthomosaic maps for varying clients. However, as I dig deeper through YouTube and forums it sounds to me as if you can’t really do any of it without a licensed surveyor? I’m sure it varies by state...or does it? Needless to say, I’m disappointed as of now, the software make it so easy to generate useful tools.
 

R Martin

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So where is the line? I’ll admit I got super pumped to narrow down what software I was going to use for making 3D models and orthomosaic maps for varying clients. However, as I dig deeper through YouTube and forums it sounds to me as if you can’t really do any of it without a licensed surveyor? I’m sure it varies by state...or does it? Needless to say, I’m disappointed as of now, the software make it so easy to generate useful tools.
You can map all day without any problem. You can sell it as survey grade unless you are an RPLS in most states.
In order to create a map you are going to need the ability to set your own control which will be used during processing the imagery to tie it accurately to a set piece of real estate. You can pay an RPLS to set monuments for you or you can buy a GPS unit and a software package that will allow you to come close to survey-grade. (I just bought a new Trimble Geo7X with centimeter-grade software and it topped out at roughly $12K).
Not everyone requires high accuracy. Some might be fine with 20", others might require 0.5". It depends entirely on what the end product is going to be used for. You don't want to dump 20-30K in software and hardware if you are just going to be measuring stockpiles. Conversely, you don't want to show up on a job with a unit that at best is accurate to 3-5 meters to map SUE work.
When it comes to mapping, there is no generic answer that fits all situations. Mapping is a specialized field and the higher the accuracy, the higher to cost to break in to the field.
 

JDL

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You can map all day without any problem. You can sell it as survey grade unless you are an RPLS in most states.
In order to create a map you are going to need the ability to set your own control which will be used during processing the imagery to tie it accurately to a set piece of real estate. You can pay an RPLS to set monuments for you or you can buy a GPS unit and a software package that will allow you to come close to survey-grade. (I just bought a new Trimble Geo7X with centimeter-grade software and it topped out at roughly $12K).
Not everyone requires high accuracy. Some might be fine with 20", others might require 0.5". It depends entirely on what the end product is going to be used for. You don't want to dump 20-30K in software and hardware if you are just going to be measuring stockpiles. Conversely, you don't want to show up on a job with a unit that at best is accurate to 3-5 meters to map SUE work.
When it comes to mapping, there is no generic answer that fits all situations. Mapping is a specialized field and the higher the accuracy, the higher to cost to break in to the field.
So when doing stockpiles are you saying some are looking for it to be dead accurate? Say for example a client gets an orthomosaic from pix4dcloud, they use the measure tool etc to get rough measurements etc, nothing accurate, is that what you mean?
 

R.Perry

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Here is my experience, or lack of. Here in California to do a survey you need to be licensed. Now you can make all the maps you want, make them as close to accurate but you can not imply in any way that they are survey grade, or survey accurate even if they are unless, you can get a licensed surveyor to put his or her stamp of approval on it.

As for stockpile, and volume reports ours were very accurate but had nothing to do with surveying, so I could highlight a stockpile, or trench, pond (with no water) and get very accurate volume reports, however we never stated a level of accuracy to the client, they were always estimates that proved to be very accurate.

I can tell you that some surveyors see drone mapping as a threat to their long term livelihood, and the way technology is going they should be worried. The flip side to that is owners of survey companies are seeing the potential to reduce survey time but still making the same money, lose on one end, gain on the other.

Some of the surveyors would give me inaccurate data just to screw me up, others were very helpful.
 

JDL

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Okay, the stock pile reports or volume report, were those always done using gcp’s? I ask cause even a quick map of my property with no gcp’s still yielding extrem close to accurate measurement. so I could tell a client, hey these tools are available but I cannot state in any way their accuracy.
 

R Martin

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So when doing stockpiles are you saying some are looking for it to be dead accurate? Say for example a client gets an orthomosaic from pix4dcloud, they use the measure tool etc to get rough measurements etc, nothing accurate, is that what you mean?
There is accuracy and there is accuracy. There is also a law of diminishing returns. Cost is what determines the output. You are generally not going to get **** about accuracy doing volumetric measurements. While important, it is not truly critical. You can miss the mark by a few cubic meters and still be good. For mapping construction or utilities, you are going to want a higher grade of accuracy. If you have to find a buried utility to repair it, ideally you should be at a minimum of 18" (the width of a backhoe bucket). If you are buying a tract of property you need the best accuracy you can get; after all, you are going to be paying property taxes based upon those numbers.
Clients generally don't want to pay for survey-grade accuracy on a stockpile measurement. You could be an extremely nice guy and provide it at bargain basement prices, but you probably won't be in business long. The higher the accuracy, the more time you will spend collecting and processing the data. Not to mention, the higher the price of your toys to collect said information.
You have to balance what you are providing with what the customer can afford. Stockpile measurements are toward the mid to bottom of the scale.
 

JDL

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There is accuracy and there is accuracy. There is also a law of diminishing returns. Cost is what determines the output. You are generally not going to get **** about accuracy doing volumetric measurements. While important, it is not truly critical. You can miss the mark by a few cubic meters and still be good. For mapping construction or utilities, you are going to want a higher grade of accuracy. If you have to find a buried utility to repair it, ideally you should be at a minimum of 18" (the width of a backhoe bucket). If you are buying a tract of property you need the best accuracy you can get; after all, you are going to be paying property taxes based upon those numbers.
Clients generally don't want to pay for survey-grade accuracy on a stockpile measurement. You could be an extremely nice guy and provide it at bargain basement prices, but you probably won't be in business long. The higher the accuracy, the more time you will spend collecting and processing the data. Not to mention, the higher the price of your toys to collect said information.
You have to balance what you are providing with what the customer can afford. Stockpile measurements are toward the mid to bottom of the scale.
Are you always using gcp’s for stock pile reports?
 

R Martin

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Okay, the stock pile reports or volume report, were those always done using gcp’s? I ask cause even a quick map of my property with no gcp’s still yielding extrem close to accurate measurement. so I could tell a client, hey these tools are available but I cannot state in any way their accuracy.
If I did use GCPs I wouldn't use too many for that type of work. The reason I use GCPs is to tie a specific pixel to a specific point on the surface because positional accuracy is a lot more critical for me. You could run a dataset for stockpile measurement without any control and still get a reasonably accurate answer. I consider myself a fairly ethical person and would sleep well with those numbers. Introducing GCPs is going to firm that answer up a little more but you have to weigh that small increase in accuracy against the cost of the equipment you are going to need to do the job that way.
 

R Martin

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Okay, the stock pile reports or volume report, were those always done using gcp’s? I ask cause even a quick map of my property with no gcp’s still yielding extrem close to accurate measurement. so I could tell a client, hey these tools are available but I cannot state in any way their accuracy.
A GCP is used to tie an orthomosaic to a specific spot on the earth's surface. You can use them on an ortho used to measure volume, but IMHO it is overkill. It just adds to the complexity of processing, the amount of time you spend in the entire process, and the equipment you need to perform the job. Are you planning on passing that cost on to the client? Are others in your area providing that same service without GCP's for less cost per flight? IMHO, again, its overkill. You can perform measurements accurately without all that. Generating an ortho to be used as a map is an entirely different matter.
 

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What you cannot do in any state.
-Set property pins or any benchmarks with datum visible near them. This includes your GCP's
-Create plats or other exhibits showing any real property information or bearings and distances recorded or otherwise previously documented.
-Market your services as surveying, IE topographic survey. Even if there are not established or widely known mandates a PLS can still come after you.

I would not,
-Market services with any verbiage on accuracy other than what is spec's by the equipment manufacturers or software vendors.
-Collect data with RTK alone. Always log for PPK as backup and the ability to provide raw data to Surveyors or for any potential legal parties.
-Provide the deliverables to anyone other than the primary contact or others specified by that contact. IE I transmit to the PM and they share with whoever they wish.
 
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R Martin

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What you cannot do in any state.
-Set property pins or any benchmarks with datum visible near them. This includes your GCP's
-Create plats or other exhibits showing any real property information or bearings and distances recorded or otherwise previously documented.
-Market your services as surveying, IE topographic survey. Even if there are not established or widely known mandates a PLS can still come after you.

I would not,
-Market services with any verbiage on accuracy other than what is spec's by the equipment manufacturers or software vendors.
-Collect data with RTK alone. Always log for PPK as backup and the ability to provide raw data to Surveyors or for any potential legal parties.
-Provide the deliverables to anyone other than the primary contact or others specified by that contact. IE I transmit to the PM and they share with whoever they wish.
Excellent answer.
 
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Stiets

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Here is my experience, or lack of. Here in California to do a survey you need to be licensed. Now you can make all the maps you want, make them as close to accurate but you can not imply in any way that they are survey grade, or survey accurate even if they are unless, you can get a licensed surveyor to put his or her stamp of approval on it.

As for stockpile, and volume reports ours were very accurate but had nothing to do with surveying, so I could highlight a stockpile, or trench, pond (with no water) and get very accurate volume reports, however we never stated a level of accuracy to the client, they were always estimates that proved to be very accurate.

I can tell you that some surveyors see drone mapping as a threat to their long term livelihood, and the way technology is going they should be worried. The flip side to that is owners of survey companies are seeing the potential to reduce survey time but still making the same money, lose on one end, gain on the other.

Some of the surveyors would give me inaccurate data just to screw me up, others were very helpful.
As an PLS myself I completely agree with the above. I hear fellow surveyors say it is a threat but I see it as another tool in the box to use and new opportunities. Its just like when GPS came out in the 90s. Some surveyors thought it as crazy voodoo numbers from the sky and never touched it. Now they are left in the dust having to hire other surveyors such as myself to establish control. The reason I joined this forum to learn from others and help teach others. In my state you can make pretty looking maps of anything but once you deal with boundaries or property lines you need an PLS. But good luck landing a job for a rock quarry that needs volumes for the remaining materials to submit to the lender or bank to prove they have enough material assets to float the loan.....are you going to take on that liability without a PLS or E&O insurance?
 
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chasco

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As an PLS myself I completely agree with the above. I hear fellow surveyors say it is a threat but I see it as another tool in the box to use and new opportunities. Its just like when GPS came out in the 90s. Some surveyors thought it as crazy voodoo numbers from the sky and never touched it. Now they are left in the dust having to hire other surveyors such as myself to establish control. The reason I joined this forum to learn from others and help teach others. In my state you can make pretty looking maps of anything but once you deal with boundaries or property lines you need an PLS. But good luck landing a job for a rock quarry that needs volumes for the remaining materials to submit to the lender or bank to prove they have enough material assets to float the loan.....are you going to take on that liability without a PLS or E&O insurance?
We are a drone services entity inside of a contracting firm and have several quarry contracts. E&O is on the operator as they are submitting the information and our relationship is built on trust and verification with trucking. Unless you are verifying against trucking and spot checking with a level your information is always suspect, but this operation does not require a surveyor. Photogrammetry before drones was quite prevalent since the 60-70's and that only required a Surveyor to set the ground control points because noone else could do it at the time. Quarry monitoring is about relative accuracies and there is no need for globally accurate coordinates.
 
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Arnold LeVine

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Here is a court case that is extremely pertinent to this discussion.
 

chasco

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Being discussed here as well.


Here is the actual legal document I also posted there.

 

R.Perry

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But good luck landing a job for a rock quarry that needs volumes for the remaining materials to submit to the lender or bank to prove they have enough material assets to float the loan.....are you going to take on that liability without a PLS or E&O insurance?

That's a very good point. What we do is supply the data, and yes we do use the surveyors GCPs. Most of our data from mappings is down loaded to CAD programs for the engineering department. Also used by county inspectors. We do not guarantee any level of accuracy in volume, stockpile, GCPs, elevation or horizonal distances. That is for the client to confirm. Our volume reports were very accurate when compared to the surveyors.

We presented our mappings as tools to be used for overview inspections, the additional tools are just made available to the clients.

One of my clients creates irrigation ponds for farms and ranches. The actual design of the pond is designed by their engineers. They use Drone Deploy mapping to estimate actual volume. Reality is the CAD software calculates the volume and Drone Deploys volume reports have been very close to Auto Cad's volumes.

I agree if the client needs very accurate reports, get a surveyor.
 
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chasco

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Reality is the CAD software calculates the volume and Drone Deploys volume reports have been very close to Auto Cad's volumes.
We've had the same experience. Stockpiles were proven up so we can quickly and confidently do those in DroneDeploy but cut/fill scenarios and grade tracking are all done in CAD. There's just a few things that they would have to do to make this viable in DroneDeploy, but I don't think I would ever be comfortable enough in those types of calc's in comparison.

Another thing that has worked very well lately is private owner design-build work. We have done quite a few private paved driveways and ponds all designed in-house straight off the DroneDeploy data with the RTK network as the control.
 
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dougcjohn

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@chasco for my clarification, and inexperience. Haven't you and others indicated volumetrics doesn't require GCP's? You're not needing to associate it to specific ground points and the DEM provides accuracy to determine volumetrics?
 

chasco

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@chasco for my clarification, and inexperience. Haven't you and others indicated volumetrics doesn't require GCP's? You're not needing to associate it to specific ground points and the DEM provides accuracy to determine volumetrics?
Correct. Stockpiles are treated as individual entities that are base plane versus the DSM surface so unless they are very large there is not really enough separation between images to cause distortion. Most of our stockpiles can be capture with 75% overlaps in about 5 rows. The only time I have seen "stockpiles" large enough to warrant some type of ground control was at a materials supplier's quarry. They had materials storage areas that spanned some 1000ft across, 20 acres... Even then I processed the maps both ways and they were within 4% of each other. Problem to me is that 4% was of 60,000cy so 2,400cy. Considering that they had almost 2 million on site they were ok with it but we ran with the GCP numbers. Since it is a continuous operation I really didn't have a way to verify against trucking so I'll never know how close we REALLY were. After that I consulted them into their own drone program so it must have worked ok. I lost a client though... :confused:
 

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