Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Ask Vic Column

Question: We are thinking about purchasing a drone to collect data for our surveying operations. What are the issues that I need to consider?

Drones are coming to the surveying industry. They are not legally in use yet, but the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has been moving forward on granting exemptions, and there is a collective push from commercial entities to tap into the potential of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). In February, the FAA proposed safety rules for small drones used for non-recreational operations. The proposed rule would limit flights to daylight and the drone must be within visible sight of the operator. The public will be able to comment on the proposed regulation for 60 days.

You should be aware that the FAA currently authorizes the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for commercial or business purposes on a case-by-case basis. You may not fly your UAS for commercial purposes without the express permission of the FAA. You should check with the FAA for further determination as to what constitutes a commercial or business use of small UAS. Unless you have received express permission from the FAA, you cannot currently use drones for your surveying operations.

You should also consider potential liability implications that could arise from drone use. Since this is an emerging practice we have not yet seen cases dealing with drones, but some of the issues that are foreseeable are damage to property or a person because of the improper use of a drone, the invasion of privacy resulting from drone observation, or the many other causes of action that could result from drone use. These exposures are not professional liability exposures. The use of a drone is not a professional service, but the interpretation of the information provided by the drone is a professional service. From a risk management perspective it is important that you carefully describe the scope of services that you are providing using the information provided by a drone.

Do you have a question regarding an insurance or practice management issue? Email your question to and look for your answer in a future issue of the NSPS News & Views weekly newsletter. Victor O. Schinnerer & Company, Inc., is the underwriting manager for the CNA professional liability program, and has a longstanding relationship with NSPS.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

NSPS-MAPPS day with Congress pays dividends

More than 120 NSPS and MAPPS members visited the U.S. Congress on April 15 as part of the two organizations' joint national conference held in Crystal City/Arlington, VA. More than 185 members of Congress were visited by surveying and mapping professionals from 39 states, providing a team that delivered a message about geospatial issues to 78 U.S. Senators, and more than 100 House members.

Thanks to the NSPS-MAPPS efforts on Capitol Hill, the Freedom from Government Competition Act was introduced April 28 with House Bill H.R. 2044 garnering 17 original cosponsors, and Senate Bill S. 1116 being offered by two U.S. Senators.

The Capitol Hill Day efforts also resulted in the soon to be introduced Federal Land Asset Inventory Reform (FLAIR) Act earning 7 commitments as cosponsors for the House bill, while 2 Senators are working to possibly introduce a version of the bill in that body.

Visits by the surveying and mapping delegation produced feedback that 5 House members and 2 Senators will be cosponsors for legislation to accurately locate pipelines and other underground infrastructure in utility and transportation corridors.

The day's activities also generated 38 commitments by members of Congress to urge the Appropriations Committees to fully fund the 3DEP program for national elevation data. See for more information.

During the visits to Congress, NSPS members from Washington State were photographed with Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), a member of the Senate Democrat Leadership who sits on the Appropriations Committee.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Get to know your 2015-2016 NSPS Leadership Team

Left to Right - Pat Smith, Robert Miller, Tim Burch, Jon Warren, Tony Cavell.
 Curt Sumner at Podium.  Not pictured: Jan Fokens
The recently installed officers of NSPS will serve from April 2015 until the date of the  2016 NSPS general membership meeting. This year’s leaders come from a variety of backgrounds in the surveying profession, and are indicative of the diversity of the NSPS membership in general, as have NSPS leaders since the organization’s beginnings in 1980. All are licensed professional surveyors with extensive experience in NSPS, either as NSPS Governors, Directors, or Officers.

President Jon Warren has a diverse background encompassing both the private and the public sectors. He currently serves as Land Survey Division Manager for the City of Bellevue, WA. Formerly, Jon has served as Snohomish County (WA) Surveyor, as Survey Business Line Manager for WH Pacific, and as Senior Associate and Puget Sound Region Survey Manager for David Evans and Associates, Inc.  

President-Elect Tony Cavell also has experience in both the private and public sectors, having worked in construction surveying, offshore, and has expertise in GNSS applications for surveying. Working with LSU, he was a manager for C4G, and helped establish CORS and develop GULFnet RTN for Louisiana. Tony is one of the initial Certified Federal Surveyors (CFedS) and has served as a Director for the Public Lands Survey System Foundation (PLSSF). 

Vice President Jan Fokens has owned Fokens Enterprises (a private practice land surveying/consulting firm in MI), served as a Business Consultant for the Michigan Small Business Technology Development Center at Mid-Michigan Community College, and as a Peer Review Consultant for Isabella and Gladwin Counties, MI Remonumentation Program. He is the Chairman of the City of Mt. Pleasant, MI Zoning Board of Appeals.

Treasurer Robert (Bob) Miller is Director of Land Surveying for Horizon Engineering, LLC in Pennsylvania where he is actively involved in project management and survey activities, including plan generation, field and office scheduling, and marketing. He also has served as an expert witness in numerous court proceedings. For the last 18 years he has been teaching workshops in Basic and Applied Survey Mathematics, Construction Surveying, Writing Legal Descriptions, and Boundary Survey Law.

Secretary Tim Burch has over 30 years’ experience, and is currently the Survey Department Manager for Chastain & Associates (IL) where his duties include establishing new markets and clients, and mentoring of surveying staff. In 2013 he participated in the Illinois Boundary Law book project written by Jeff Lucas. The publication was organized by the Northeast Chapter, and published by the IPLSA for its members. Tim also has been a contributor to the Illinois Surveyor newsletter.

Past President Pat Smith will continue as a member of the NSPS Executive Committee for 2014-2015 where he will share the expertise he gained serving as the 2013-2014 NSPS President. Pat is Senior Staff Surveyor at Surveying & Mapping, Inc. (SAM Inc.) in Austin, TX. 

The NSPS Executive Committee is comprised of its officers along with four members of its Board of Directors (representatives from the respective state surveying societies). The four Directors serving on the NSPS Executive Committee for 2015 are: David Holland (VA); Mike Maxwell (FL); Rick Howard (CT); Bob Akins (OH).

Thursday, April 2, 2015

West Virginia Surveyors win Statute of Repose

John L. Green PLS, Chairman of the West Virginia Society of Professional Surveyors (WVSPS) Legislative Committee, has reported that the organization is pleased to announce that a Statute of Limitations (actually a Statute of Repose) for boundary surveying in WV passed the Senate on February 25, the House on March 10, and was signed into law by Governor Tomblin on March 24, 2015. SB 489 will take effect on June 8, 2015.

This law adds property surveying to the existing statute of repose covering planning, design, and surveying and construction of improvements to real property. Basically the new law says that no action to recover damages for any deficiency in the surveying of real property may be brought more than ten (10) years after the performance of the survey.

Green says, “This is a huge deal for WV surveyors, WVSPS members and non-members alike. It represents the most significant legislative accomplishment we have achieved in many years; and one we have pursued for as long as I can remember”.

He went on to say, “I’d like to extend my sincere thanks to all those who had a hand in this effort. To Senator Mitch Carmichael for sponsoring the bill; Senator David Sypolt for covering our back while we were all at the convention by testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee (which really started this bill rolling), and advocating for its passage in the Senate; our government relations consultant and lobbyist for all their hard work behind the scenes; Curt Sumner and NSPS for their informational help and support which was very important; our new executive director and administrative staff for their effective handling of critical communications; and all of you who promptly answered my alerts and calls to contact your representatives in support of this legislation. This accomplishment demonstrates what we can achieve when we work together with a unified voice. I ask that you all take a few minutes to reflect on this. Think what this means to you, your profession, and your business. This is truly what the WVSPS is all about.

Lastly I would like to thank you all for the opportunity to serve the society in this capacity and to have the honor of making such a momentous announcement.”

Friday, March 27, 2015

NSPS Announces Winner(s) of Earle J. Fennell Award

In honor of Earle J. Fennell, ACSM President 1966-1967 and ACSM Executive Director 1968-1971, ACSM created this award to be presented for distinguished educational contributions to the surveying and mapping profession. Persons who have worked in any aspect of surveying and mapping education may be nominated. The nominee may or may not be a professional educator, but should have a sustained record of superior performance in surveying and mapping education for more than ten years at the local, state, or national level.

Subsequent to the ACSM/NSPS merger, NSPS continues the tradition of presenting this award annually.

The seven (7) member judging committee has decided that the 2015 award should go to two equally qualified, and deserving, candidates. They are John J. Doody, LS/PE, long-time educator in Connecticut (currently serving as part-time faculty at Central Connecticut State University), and Kurt B. Wurm, Ph.D., P.L.S., Associate Professor –Surveying Engineering, New Mexico State University.

NSPS extends its congratulations and sincere appreciation to John (Jay) and Kurt.

ALTA/ACSM Question

Our title blocks have a signature block which we utilize for any survey plan that warrants a signature.  We have received a request to sign and place our seal directly below the ALTA certification, in addition to the title block seal. There is not really a good reason to say no, other than the extra ink and minute to sign, but is this an ALTA requirement?


Some states regulate exactly where the seal and signature needs to go; ALTA/ACSM doesn't specify, but logically it would go somewhere in the vicinity of the certification. I personally don't think it matters; the signature and seal cover everything on the plat/map, including the certification wording, but I have no doubt that some lenders would be picky!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

POB Top 100 to be Highlighted at MAPPS/NSPS Conference

Ever wondered where a company ranks among others in the geospatial market? In an effort to answer that question, POB magazine is conducting a surveying and mapping market study that will include the first-ever ranking of the top 100 companies based on total geospatial revenue for 2014.