Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Land Surveying Practice in California

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rmaher
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Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Land Surveying Practice in California

Postby rmaher » Sat Oct 07, 2017 3:19 pm

I missed this article when it first came out but when it was mentioned at a recent chapter meeting I had to take a look.

Persons who offer to do more than flying the UAV and obtaining the photography would be violating the law if their services also include orthogonally rectifying the photography to the surface of the Earth or preparing a map that shows any of the items contained in PLS Act Sections 8726(a), (b), and (f) and 8775.1 or Section 6731.1(a) and (b) of the PE Act, unless that work is performed by, or under the responsible charge of, a person authorized to perform land surveying.


***fixed link below, wasn't public, now is***

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByZPpC12H--xenRhOHJhNVRGQ2s/view?usp=sharing

Is flying the drone also surveying? Is that now the purview of only union surveyors at a signatory firm or under the umbrella of prevailing wage? How about scanning ... setting up and watching the scanner collect millions of points per minute or driving the truck with a mobile scanner on it; is that surveying? Single and multi-beam depth sounders for bathymetry?

I know drones and scanners and depth sounders are employed by so many different trades and professions on many various types of sites now...

'Curiouser and curiouser!” Cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English).'
Last edited by rmaher on Sat Oct 07, 2017 4:55 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Take care,

Rich

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land butcher
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Re: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Land Surveying Practice in California

Postby land butcher » Sat Oct 07, 2017 3:34 pm

The union owned elected, having total control of all branches of govt in CA, have recently passed some very restrictive labor rules on private practice surveyors.
CA is now run like a dictatorship.

As for the drones, the big companies have bought legislation that makes it impossible for a small survey company to do aerials by drones. You have to contract with very large firms.

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DWoolley
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Re: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Land Surveying Practice in California

Postby DWoolley » Sat Oct 07, 2017 7:02 pm

Technically speaking, if a practitioner is creating a topographic map under the Professional Engineer's Act, Section 6731.1 (a) or (b) the licensee is engineering, not land surveying and certainly, is not required to be "under the responsible charge of, a person authorized to perform land surveying" as stated in the article.

Rich Maher, to your question, measurement is not a regulated practice. The best technical people I have worked with in the use of scanners i.e. terrestrial LiDAR are either structural engineer types or more so, architect types. Drones i.e. UAVs or LiDAR equipment use is simply a measurement tool. The work product is the issue, kinda. I can pull ortho-photography with decent latitude and longitude from (wait for it) Google Earth. Essentially, this is little different than drone product combined with LiDAR (currently being mapped by Google in Japan at the moment) - I do not recall BPELSG going after Google for "land surveying", maybe they're waiting for the precise moment to strike.

Our engineering brethren - the primary users of topography - have designed from the contours on a quad sheet. They often do not much care about the source of the topographic information - oftentimes, hiring unlicensed "surveyors". History has shown they will use anything or anybody to cut cost, anything. We have had these unlicensed drone operators in our office showing us what they can do. Technically, they cannot perform survey grade work (yet). However, their costs are a fraction of a land surveyor's cost. Think the engineers will care they are not licensed? No more than land surveyors care their aerial photography firms do not have a licensee on staff. Besides, it is legalish if the engineer is licensed. Folks, as land surveyors, we're essentially out unless the work has to be of a decent quality. If you make money making topographic maps it is only a matter of time before the other shoe drops. Locally, we have engineering firms pushing the use the drones. They are designing with the information from the drones. The topography is sketchy when compared to land surveying grade field work. Are the engineers running away from it? No. They are investing more money. If you can produce a marginal topographic work product for $500-$800 you can compete, maybe. I would caution the land surveyor though, if you create a marginal topographic map, to be competitive with drones, you may be cited for negligence.

Measurement is not a crime. Mapping is not exclusive to land surveying. If you are licensed as an engineer, it is engineering. The same can be said for construction staking. A unlicensed person construction staking under a licensed engineer is engineering, legally.

Tell me I am wrong. Someone? Anyone?

DWoolley

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David Kendall
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Re: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Land Surveying Practice in California

Postby David Kendall » Sat Oct 07, 2017 9:09 pm

DWoolley wrote: Tell me I am wrong. Someone? Anyone?


I think you nailed it. We spent Friday cleaning up a “hypothetical” mess where someone (accidentally?) contracted a residential construction staking job based on a cut rate non-surveyor topo (for landscaping purposes) upon which the architect plan and septic design were based....

Long story short, the survey request was to go and layout this frankenstein plan. The lot had a natural drainage channel on two sides and the setback was dynamic by note on the parcel map. We would be the first to certify location of the fixed work (to be constructed).

Surprise, the house is designed over the drainage channel setback line (as is the neighbors’ existing house)

Near as I can tell, everyone acted within the law. Except that there is a boundary shown on the topo map. No telling which of our esteemed design professional associates made this blunder but it is a list of three so we could venture a safe bet. Joe homebuilder was injured significantly and ought to be upset.

That’s what I got out of the article. Nothing new. This situation is only going to get more common. Probably 85% of the time there will be no problems with the protocol described above. The others will get messy.

Joe homebuilder got a good deal on his topo map! Not sure what he paid but I bet it’s right in line with your $500-800 estimate. Our topo and boundary map would have been 4-5 times that cost.

I don’t blame the homeowner or the topo mapper. I might have done the same thing in either of their shoes. No way can BPELSG prosecute everyone making measurements any more than they can ban the public use of rulers. I don’t think that’s what they meant in the article.

Whoever added the boundary lines to that topo map blew it and may be liable for damages. Whoever relied on it to design a house and SDS acted foolishly. I’m glad it wasn’t me this time!

I might politely warn these three associate design professionals that someone is treading on thin ice. I expect the Joe homebuilder ought to file a complaint with the board but this isn’t the first time and certainly won’t be the last that this happens so to me it’s not worth the time to make the phone call and stick my finger in the fractured leaking dam.

I believe topo mapping and construction staking are already worthless industries. If one LS can sit and approve these $500 topo maps and flag the problem situations for futher inspection then this party is over. How many topo maps could you review in a day? I’d say at least ten or twenty with practice.

The only thing these UAV and unlicensed topo guys are missing is an endorsement and they will figure it out soon enough once they get organized and compare notes. Is this what we mean by “measurement is dead”?

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Jim Frame
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Re: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Land Surveying Practice in California

Postby Jim Frame » Sun Oct 08, 2017 6:30 am

I believe topo mapping and construction staking are already worthless industries.


It depends. Drones can probably provide a lot of the design mapping for soft surfaces (at least those parts not under vegetative cover), but they may never replace terrestrial topo on hard surfaces. Photogrammetric drone mapping is still a long ways from getting the required accuracy. Lidar might be suitable, but hard-surface sites are usually populated, and it's a violation of FAA regs to fly a drone over people who aren't part of the mapping effort (and a significant liability besides).

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DWoolley
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Re: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Land Surveying Practice in California

Postby DWoolley » Sun Oct 08, 2017 9:43 am

The car manufacturers are heavily vested in a mapping technology called HERE. The HERE office is located in Fargo, North Dakota. However, their fleet of vehicles is in Berkley and have been reportedly working in the Mountain View area. I would bet they have mapped most of the larger urban areas in California.

The folks at HERE create accurate 3D mapping models of streets, buildings, neighborhoods with the purpose of helping driverless cars navigate. I believe we will also see these 3D mapping models used to preprogram delivery drones. HERE collects information using mobile LiDAR and then, ships it off to India for mapping. They claim to have a team of "engineers" that check the data for accuracy. I am sure they believe their data is centimeter accurate and maybe, it is. They have accessed the local GIS systems for checking their right of way and street information. Once this data becomes as readily available as Google Earth, which is inevitable, the land surveyor's street topography will consist of dipping manholes.

Ok, BPELSG enforcement staff, now that you know, GO! Get'm, get'm, get'm! Similarly to the way contractors using RTK were stopped dead in their tracks for "land surveying", er. Then again, maybe "in the interest of justice" it would be best to simply look the other way (or, ah, "educate" 'em) - this is the well worn path in enforcement.

DWoolley

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TTaylor
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Re: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Land Surveying Practice in California

Postby TTaylor » Mon Oct 09, 2017 3:51 am

Anybody and everybody can make a map. Think Thomas Brothers.

When I was chair of the CLSA leg committee we deliberated/debated various emerging technologies and potential legislation. It became apparent that trying to create an exhaustive list of equipment that is protected for the use of land surveyors was futile. The key thing was the work product produced.

So, in order to protect Land Surveyors we managed to get a revision to the LSACT through modifying 8726 to include:

(n) Renders a statement regarding the accuracy of maps or measured survey data.

So, anybody can make a map, any fool can misuse it, not everybody can attest to its accuracy.

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mpallamary
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Re: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Land Surveying Practice in California

Postby mpallamary » Tue Oct 10, 2017 1:29 pm

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land butcher
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Re: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Land Surveying Practice in California

Postby land butcher » Tue Oct 10, 2017 1:44 pm

Unlike lawyers that use legalize and create laws that increase their work and the medical industry that has a $250k cap on malpractice we are losing one phase of our work after another and no cap on lawsuits.

Years ago surveyors stated "we have plenty of work we don't need to protect our profession".

Seems the surveying profession will become one of high liability and low pay. Even ALTAs have become high liability items with title officers that only want to create a title report whose legal desc may or may not be correct and could care less if you can read their copy of the back up docs.

Of course moonbeam is doing his best to create affordable housing by requiring prevailing wage on housing projects and adding green taxes to all building materials. I'm not quite sure how that pencils out but should raise the wages, but not necessarily total income, of those in the residential building trades.

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Re: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Land Surveying Practice in California

Postby JoshPLS » Tue Oct 10, 2017 2:53 pm

The data processing software for drones (pix4d, dronedeploy, and many others) prompts you for all photos your drone collected (including obliques) it then stitches those photos together based on similar pixels to produce an ortho photo, point cloud / 3D model, etc. based on complex algorithms. There is no "thinking" involved as the software does all the legwork. If a PLS inserted the pictures or a hobo off the streets, the end result is the same.

Where it gets interesting is ground control and that in my opinion is where we need to fight and be heard. Without ground control these are floating in space and have no relation to the real world (at least not accurately). A land surveyor should be used to produce those coordinates via RTK or conventionally if a record bearing basis is required for future mapping (pick your poison).

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DWoolley
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Re: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Land Surveying Practice in California

Postby DWoolley » Tue Oct 10, 2017 6:54 pm

In Orange County we have a large local grading contractor experimenting with drones at our landfills. As a grading contractor they move millions of yards of material each year. Last time I counted they were running nearly 30 Caterpillar 657s on the project we help oversee. Their engineer tells me they can get 1' contour accuracy all day long. I have been working around these guys since 1993-94.

Now the question:

To control their photos they use 81/2 x 11 sheet paper from the copy machine, place a rock on it (literally), use the grade checkers RTK unit to get an X,Y and Z somewhere near the middle of the paper.

The contractor's engineer was licensed long after 1982.

Is the contractor's engineer "surveying" and required to be under the responsible charge of someone authorized to practice land surveying - as the BPELSG article would lead the reader to believe? Or is the engineer simply engineering in accordance with the PE Act?

As a matter of efficiency, they lay these "targets" out, measure them, and pick them up again before I could get to the job site. Why would they pay land surveyor to do that? The only difference between our RTK units is the frequency we use. It has been my experience, the majority of the surveyors I run into have no more understanding of GPS or the California Coordinate System than the grade checkers. They come out of the same union hall.

Or is your "protected practice", as a land surveyor, an OPUS adjustment of the static data? Not much different than sending your photos into Shutterfly.

DWoolley

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mpallamary
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Re: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Land Surveying Practice in California

Postby mpallamary » Wed Oct 11, 2017 4:10 am

fatalmotorcyclecrash.jpg
And this is my second most favorite picture. Rome burns...
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TTaylor
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Re: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Land Surveying Practice in California

Postby TTaylor » Wed Oct 11, 2017 9:33 am

Two quick things:
1.) IMO, A contractor claiming an accuracy of a 1' contour is in violation of 8726 (n).
2.) The CHP has had an exemption for the use of location equipment for accident investigation for quite sometime now.

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mpallamary
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Re: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Land Surveying Practice in California

Postby mpallamary » Wed Oct 11, 2017 2:01 pm

Thanks and that is my point as to the exemption. No one is watching out for this intrusion. What happened with the CHP has set a precedent and Rome burns.

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Re: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Land Surveying Practice in California

Postby DWoolley » Thu Oct 12, 2017 12:20 pm

Actually, the contractor’s engineer was engineering.

Business and Professions Code § 6731.1.

Civil engineering - additional authority for engineering surveying Civil engineering also includes the practice or offer to practice, in a public or private capacity, all of the following:

(a) Locates, relocates, establishes, reestablishes, or retraces the alignment or elevation for any of the fixed works embraced within the practice of civil engineering, as described in Section 6731.

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

(c) Creates, prepares, or modifies electronic or computerized data in the performance of the activities described in subdivisions (a) and (b).

(d) Renders a statement regarding the accuracy of maps or measured survey data pursuant to subdivisions (a), (b), and (c).

The Solution

If the land surveying community believes this type of work should be exclusive to the practice of land surveying, the professional community needs to change the following laws (equally, how the existing laws are enforced):

1. Remove 6731.1 and 6731.2 from the PE Act. Removing 6731.2 creates the professional autonomy the land surveyors need to control their own destiny.

2. Prohibit the contractors, on public works projects, from hiring the land surveyors directly. As with the engineers – by the removal of 6731.2 – the land surveyor’s relationship needs to be with the owner, not the contractors. The primary reason is the immediate conflict presented by the Public Contract Code requiring the hiring of the “lowest responsible bidder” as opposed to the Government Code stating land surveyor selection is based on qualification based selection. These two contracting processes are water and oil and yet, the land surveying community is complicit in their facilitation. Simply stated, the land surveyors often achieve low bid by cutting corners and breaking laws.

3. The professional community must demand the rigid enforcement of the existing laws by the BPELSG staff. The enforcement should be uniform, swift, exacting and yet, insure the respondents are afforded their due process rights.

Every society gets the kind of criminal it deserves. What is equally true is that every community gets the kind of law enforcement it insists on.” Robert Kennedy (1964)

The honest law-abiding land surveying community must insist on rigid law enforcement. The current law enforcement model is without question the most ominus threat to the professional practice today. All other professional concerns pale in comparison.

DWoolley

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DWoolley
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Re: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Land Surveying Practice in California

Postby DWoolley » Fri Oct 13, 2017 6:18 am

William Magee? Magee? [Bueller?, Bueller?] What happened to your post?

Let me paraphrase the good part of the disappearing post:

Magee [hiding behind his pseudonym] wrote that I may have had an "epiphany" since I wrote, by his recollection, a letter to ACEC saying we should allow the engineers to survey and that the CLSA Board of Directors were displeased with me - insinuating I somehow got in trouble with them.

Before I choose the balance of your words, please elaborate further on that incident in 2012. As a heads up, I have the letter from 2012.

DWoolley

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Re: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Land Surveying Practice in California

Postby William Magee » Fri Oct 13, 2017 1:16 pm

Strange. If I recall there was another post by someone else that also came up missing in this thread.

Regardless, the main point of my post was to point out the differences between the PE Act and the LS Act in regards to mapping. Note the following differences in language where surveyors can apply mathematics in whole whereas the engineers are limited to trigonometry. And surveyors have the added empowerment found in subsection (f). These differences although subtle are pretty significant when delved into as they limit engineers to localized ground coordinate based mapping whereas surveyors are empowered to address the non-Euclidean aspects of determining spherical to planer relationships.

6731.1.

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

8726.

(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.

(f) Geodetic or cadastral surveying. As used in this chapter, geodetic surveying means performing surveys, in which account is taken of the figure and size of the earth to determine or predetermine the horizontal or vertical positions of fixed objects thereon or related thereto, geodetic control points, monuments, or stations for use in the practice of land surveying or for stating the position of fixed objects, geodetic control points, monuments, or stations by California Coordinate System coordinates.


In regards to your change in direction I find confusing, I'll simply defer to the record as available to any card carrying member as found in the Board approved motion evidenced on page 6 of the minutes of the July 2012 BOD meeting.
Don't shoot the messenger.

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land butcher
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Re: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Land Surveying Practice in California

Postby land butcher » Fri Oct 13, 2017 1:35 pm

mpallamary wrote:
fatalmotorcyclecrash.jpg
And this is my second most favorite picture. Rome burns...



I don't know how long the CHP has had their exemption but numerous police depts use EDMs at accident sites Tustin being one and I would think scanners are next.
Decades ago I knew a couple of land surveyors that had nice prosperous business doing nothing but accident topos, now it's being done by persons in police uniforms that, at least the ones I have seen, could not pass a police physical being paid $80K+per year and eligible for the hazardous duty 90% pensions.

Yeah we have plenty of work.

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Re: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Land Surveying Practice in California

Postby Rob_LS » Fri Oct 13, 2017 5:49 pm

RMaher – No, flying the drone is no more surveying than flying the airplane or helicopter and operating the camera is in a traditional aerial photogrammetric data collection effort, although there is sentiment to regulate the use of these tools. HOWEVER, the work product generated from the effort, may be land surveying, (or engineering under 6731.1), and as such must be under the direction of a land surveyor (or engineer). DWooley is correct in that measurement is not a regulated practice.

Land Butcher – Did you miss the recent conference keynote address where the speaker described how he sees the future of mapping from drone collected imagery? It didn’t involve big companies legislating you out of the picture. As DWooley mentions in his follow up post, there are drone operators that will work for you at a fraction of what a surveyor would charge. There is your opportunity to compete with the big firms. Depending on what software you use, you may already have the capability to use the data they collect and just not know it. Of course, DWooley also correctly points out that if you were to create a marginal product, you may be cited for negligence. Wouldn’t that be true for traditional manned aircraft photogrammetry or even for traditional total station topo? If you failed to provide adequately survey the control, perform oversight of the work, and exercise reasonable quality control and quality assurance of the work product, aren’t you abdicating your responsibilities as a PLS?

DWooley – That’s an interesting thought about Google. What code section are they violating? As a well versed and knowledgeable PLS, I’m sure you are aware that the BPELSG enforcement efforts are in response to filed complaints. If you, or anyone else here on the discussion board, know of unlicensed practice, then file a complaint. Provide as much detail and specific information as possible. If an engineer designs a ___ (fill in the blank) based on a quad sheet or topographic information from an unlicensed “surveyor” (not working under his direction 6731.1), and the results indicate negligence on the engineer’s part, then file a complaint.

David Kendall - If “someone” designs a ___ (fill in the blank) “based on a cut rate non-surveyor topo” and you feel that it was negligent or incompetent, then file a complaint. Or are you certain that their negligence or incompetence is completely cured and they will call you for every topo they need from here to eternity? Or will they just call someone else next time to pull their bacon out of the fire next time, so you don’t see their repeated mistakes? If the rest of the profession sees that Alfred P. Architect, AIA got his ticket pulled for this, don’t you think other architects might take notice?

DWooley – Again, Identify what code section are they violating, and file a complaint. Venting on this forum does nothing to improve the state of our profession, or our relationship with our licensing board whose members and staff go to great lengths to help our profession, while protecting the public. Worse, some of our colleagues who are less informed about BPELSG processes and activities may actually think you are right that BPELSG staff is not doing their job, which is about as far from the truth as it can get. In fiscal years 14/15, 15/16 and 16/17, an average of 341 complaints were opened each year, and an average of 351 were closed. The number of open cases has dropped from 243 to 204, and the average days from opening to closing has gone from 262 to 222 days. From December, 2011 to August, 2017, the number of cases aged between 181 and 270 days has dropped from 40 to 34; age 271 and 365 days has dropped from 64 to 23; age 366 and 730 days has dropped from 96 to 15; and age 731 and 1095 days (2 to 3 years) has dropped from 15 to 1. In August, 2012, there were 3 cases with age reported between 1096 and 1460 days (3 to 4 years), and 2 cases with age reported between 1461 and 1826 days (4 to 5 years).

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Jim Frame
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Re: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Land Surveying Practice in California

Postby Jim Frame » Sat Oct 14, 2017 6:09 am

I would think scanners are next.


A couple of years ago there was an injury accident about a block from my house. As I was walking home (I'd been out running errands) I saw that the police had closed a portion of the street, and a fire truck was on site with its ladder extended above the accident scene. I assumed they were going to scan it from the ladder, though I didn't actually see a scanner in use as I walked by. It's possible they were just using the ladder to get photographs, but this incident led me to believe that scanners are probably already part of the public agency accident response toolbox.

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TTaylor
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Re: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Land Surveying Practice in California

Postby TTaylor » Sat Oct 14, 2017 6:39 am

In 2007 a tanker trailer caught fire on a freeway here in the Bay Area collapsing part of the structure. The headlines called it The Maze Blaze.

One of the guys working for me showed up at the site in the middle of the night and found the CHP scanning the site with a laser scanner.

They kindly gave us their point clouds and we referenced them for engineering purposes.

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Re: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Land Surveying Practice in California

Postby William Magee » Sat Oct 14, 2017 7:38 am

TTaylor wrote:In 2007 a tanker trailer caught fire on a freeway here in the Bay Area collapsing part of the structure. The headlines called it The Maze Blaze.

One of the guys working for me showed up at the site in the middle of the night and found the CHP scanning the site with a laser scanner.

They kindly gave us their point clouds and we referenced them for engineering purposes.

It is notable that Andregg Geomatics scanned and surveyed the Macarthur Maze and provided an incredible quick turn around set of as-builts allowing CC Meyers to rebuild the Maze in a matter of weeks. A truley amazing feat. See Cal-Surveyor #153.
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mpallamary
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Re: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Land Surveying Practice in California

Postby mpallamary » Sat Oct 14, 2017 8:28 am

Mr. Magee, I am glad you made it through the recent fires. I was concerned about you.

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TTaylor
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Re: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Land Surveying Practice in California

Postby TTaylor » Sat Oct 14, 2017 8:43 am

In addition to the CHP using a laser scanner on the maze blaze and handing it over to us in 2007, I also recall the CHP buying several total stations in, I believe, 2001 when I was in HQ in Sacramento. I'm not sure when the exemption was put into law, but I believe it was near then.

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TTaylor
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Re: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Land Surveying Practice in California

Postby TTaylor » Sat Oct 14, 2017 9:21 am

Found it!! Here is a screen grab from a video we produced from the CHP point cloud of the scanned collapse from the Maze Blaze.
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