Drone Pilot Grounded: Court Rules License Needed for Aerial Mapping

Drone Mapping Business Halted by Licensing Laws

In a landmark decision, a federal appeals court ruled that a drone pilot cannot offer aerial mapping services without a state surveyor's license. This decision highlights the tension between innovative technology and traditional regulated professions, reports ABC News.

The Court Case

Background

Michael Jones, a drone pilot operating 360 Virtual Drone Services, sought to expand his business by offering aerial mapping services. These services included creating composite images for construction companies, providing bird's-eye views of land tracts. However, the North Carolina Board of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors intervened, claiming Jones needed a surveyor's license to continue offering these services.

Legal Battle

The board began investigating Jones in late 2018, and by June 2019, ordered him to cease mapping, surveying, and photogrammetry activities. Jones complied, adding a disclaimer to his website that his maps were not intended to replace official surveys. Despite his compliance, Jones sued the board in 2021, arguing that the licensing requirement violated his First Amendment rights.

Court's Decision

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's ruling, stating that the requirement for a surveyor's license was a regulation of conduct, not speech. Circuit Judge Jim Wynn emphasized the importance of relying on professionally trained surveyors for accurate mapping, asserting that the licensing process protects consumers from potential economic and issues arising from incorrect land measurements.

Key Points from the Ruling

Protection of Public Interest

Judge Wynn noted that the rigorous process to become a licensed surveyor ensures that individuals are adequately trained, which is crucial for public safety and reliability in land measurements.

Free Speech Argument

Despite Jones' argument that taking photos and providing information is protected speech, the court found that the licensing law primarily regulates professional conduct, not speech. The court maintained that the state's interest in ensuring accurate surveying services justified the licensing requirement.

Future Implications for Drone Pilots

Jones' attorney, Sam Gedge from the Institute for Justice, expressed plans to further appeal the case.

Gedge criticized the ruling, stating, “The state can criminalize sharing certain types of photos without a government-issued license. And it does so on the theory that such a law somehow does not regulate ‘speech.' That reasoning is badly flawed.”

DroneXL's Take

This ruling underscores a significant challenge for drone pilots looking to expand their services into areas traditionally regulated by state licensing. While the court's decision aims to protect consumers and ensure accuracy in land surveying, it also raises questions about the balance between innovation and regulation. For drone enthusiasts and professionals, this case highlights the importance of navigating legal requirements carefully when venturing into new business territories. As technology continues to evolve, it will be crucial for regulatory frameworks to adapt in a way that both encourages innovation and maintains public and safety.

Photo courtesy of ABC News.


Discover more from DroneXL

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD

Proposed legislation threatens your ability to use drones for fun, work, and safety. The Drone Advocacy Alliance is fighting to ensure your voice is heard in these critical policy discussions.Join us and tell your elected officials to protect your right to fly.

Drone Advocacy Alliance
TAKE ACTION NOW
Follow us on Google News!

Get your Part 107 Certificate

Pass the test and take to the skies with the Pilot Institute. We have helped thousands of people become airplane and commercial drone pilots. Our courses are designed by industry experts to help you pass FAA tests and achieve your dreams.

pilot institute dronexl

Copyright © DroneXL.co 2024. All rights reserved. The content, images, and intellectual property on this website are protected by copyright law. Reproduction or distribution of any material without prior written permission from DroneXL.co is strictly prohibited. For permissions and inquiries, please contact us first.

FTC: DroneXL.co is an Amazon Associate and uses affiliate links that can generate income from qualifying purchases. We do not sell, share, rent out, or spam your email.

Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

Articles: 3632

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

en_USEnglish