Bock & Clark 2019 November eNewsletter

Surveying Technology:  Could Drones Be the Key?

DroneThe advances in drone technology are affecting countless industries in a variety of ways and land surveying is not exempt.  From package delivery to surveillance and data gathering, it is fast becoming a tool that surveyors too are incorporating into their work.  Drone precision and technology is advancing so quickly that a drone now has the potential to collect some of the data needed for completion of an ALTA survey quicker than conventional, on the ground total station collection. 

Using these resources, a surveyor would still need to perform some “on the ground work” to uncover survey monuments, set control and tie into GPS coordinates.  However, the drone could then be utilized to scan the property using technology such as LiDAR to pick up the ground control points and improvements. LiDAR (Light Imaging, Detection and Ranging) is a method that measures the distance to a target by illuminating that target with a pulsed laser light and measuring the reflected pulses with a sensor. The differences in the time it takes for the laser to return, and in the wavelengths, are then used to make digital 3D-representations of the target. Though extremely forward-thinking there are still some challenges in implementing drone technology for surveying.

Some of these challenges include licensing the drone, navigating FAA restrictions to obtain permits within certain airspace and surveying properties where a tree canopy deters data collection. A surveyor using drone technology must obtain a commercial drone license from the FAA and comply with all rules, restrictions and requirements set forth. In some cases, these rules may make utilization of the drone impractical for the property to be surveyed and conventional methods would then be performed. 

Clients and surveyors have always had the opportunity to discuss alternative survey methods by addressing and discussing Optional Table A Item 15 of the Minimum Standard Detail Requirements. When utilized, the surveyor notes and reports the methods utilized on the ALTA Survey and includes a qualification statement regarding a negation of the precision requirement set forth in Section 3.E. of the standards. Most likely, the 2021 Standards for ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys will explore and include the newer technologies such as drones and LiDAR in detail as the precision capabilities are ever changing and more exacting.

As a footnote, another benefit of the introduction of drones into surveying is that it is generating new interest in the industry. Over the last 30 years, there has been a steady decline of individuals pursuing a career as a Licensed Surveyor. All states now require a college degree to become a surveyor. Frequently those who obtain the degree then take a different career path for either monetary or professional reasons. When the education requirement was not necessary, an individual could obtain a surveyor’s license by sitting for and passing the state examination eliminating the time and expense of obtaining a college degree.  This allowed the industry to employ many surveyors who ran small businesses with two or three employees who were experts in the field. Unfortunately, many of these small companies have closed and there aren’t many coming through the pipeline to fill the vacancies. The average age of a licensed surveyor is 55 and the number of individuals seated for licensing examinations at the state level has declined significantly. Fortunately, drones have sparked a new interest in the younger generation which will hopefully translate to more individuals pursuing a career in land surveying.

Due Diligence 101:  Request a Phase I

Surveyor Conductiong ESA Phase 1 It is in the best interest of the buyer and the tenant of a commercial property to ensure that a current Phase I (ESA) has been performed for the subject property. Environmental liability is determined by several state and federal statutes that can put the buyer and the tenant at risk if sufficient due diligence is not conducted as per CERCLA (the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980).

Under CERCLA, the EPA or another private party may pursue a lawsuit against a current or past owner or operator of a contaminated property for costs associated with that property’s cleanup even if that owner/operator is not responsible for the existing contamination.  Depending on the type of property (industrial, retail, etc…) and the duration of exposure, these costs can be extensive.

In order to defend against such future lawsuits and allegations, the buyer must conduct all appropriate inquiries (AAI) to the previous ownership and use of the property.  In many instances the Phase I prepared in accordance with ASTM Standard E1527-13, can satisfy this requirement. However, the buyer must request the due diligence is conducted before closing on the purchase of the property. Additionally, the Phase I must be performed by an environmental professional, is only valid for one year and contains some components that must be conducted no more than 180 days prior to purchase. 

In order to limit the exposure of you or your client to environmental liability lawsuits, be sure to request the Phase I. For a full listing of the components of a Phase I Report, visit our website:


  • NV5/Bock & Clark President will be attending the ICSC New York Deal Making Event to be held Dec 10-12 at the Javits Center in New York.
  • As a new member company of the Commercial Real Estate Finance Council (CREFC), Peggy Henderson will be representing NV5/Bock & Clark at the January conference being held in Miami Beach, FL.
  • Cathleen Straffen and Laura Hengle will be attending CREW Network’s Winter Leadership Summit in Santa Clara, CA January 23-24.  NV5/Bock & Clark is a proud national sponsor of CREW Network.
  • NV5/Bock & Clark Holiday Schedule: 
    • Closed November 28-29 for the Thanksgiving Holiday
    • Closed December 24-25 for Christmas Holiday
    • Closed January 1 for New Year’s Day

We wish you all a joyful holiday season and a happy new year!