NC Lawsuit Regarding UAS Aerial Photos and Mapping Still Leaves Pilots Exposed

In 2021, Michael jones sued the North Carolina Board of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors (NCBEES) in an attempt to get them to back off from proceeding with enforcement action for illegal surveying services.

Jones apparently felt taking photos and doing aerial maps should not fall under an NC surveying law.

You can read the post on the original suit here.

In the suit filed by Jones, he claimed the actions of the NCBEES actions to enforce the law violate his First Amendment rights. The suit says, “Simply, the projects the Board targets—aerial photos, data, 3D digital models, and the like—are speech that is fully protected by the First Amendment. Plaintiffs thus bring this civil-rights lawsuit to vindicate their constitutional right to create and communicate images and data about land.”

Court documents just filed appear to be heading towards a resolution that will have winners and losers if it proceeds.

In this document filed by NCBEES they appear to say they will not proceed with enforcement actions as long as UAS aerial photography does not contain any measurable components. Specifically, they say “producing an aerial photograph, without measurable information, that includes lines indicating the approximate position of property lines for marketing purposes is not the practice of land surveying.” You can read the full document here.

This additional expert testimony stated that such aerial photos should not contain grids, scale bar, north arrow, title block, etc.”

NCBEES has also filed a request for Summary Judgment and if granted, the case would end here.


If this case ends here it still leaves many actions an NC UAS pilot might undertake in aerial photography or mapping to be against the law. The NCBEES states these are the “activities that fall within, or outside, the definition of the practice of land surveying.”

The items below still fall under the NC surveying law if the UAS photo or map includes them. You can click on the charts to enlarge them.

Nc Lawsuit Regarding Uas Aerial Photo And Mapping May Be Wrapping Up

Nc Lawsuit Regarding Uas Aerial Photo And Mapping May Be Wrapping Up

If this case does in fact end here, NC drone pilots should beware of what can land them in hot water with the NCBEES and in violation of NC land surveying law. For example, the following items would be in violation: orthophotography, property boundaries, ground elevations, flood zones, wetlands, building footprints, and more.

You can find all the documents on this case if you click here.