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Policy Statement 549 - Unmanned Aircraft Systems


Approved by the Transportation Policy Committee on July 18, 2016

Approved by the Public Policy Committee on August 10, 2016

Adopted by the Board of Direction on September 27, 2916


The American Society of Civil Engineers supports the appropriate, safe and responsible use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in compliance with federal, state and local regulations, laws and ordinances in the planning, design, construction and inspection of civil engineering infrastructure projects. UAS should not be used where they are incompatible with the environment.


As the national infrastructure continues to age and deteriorate, the civil engineering industry is looking for ways to leverage technology to protect the public health, welfare and safety at reduced cost compared to current means and methods. As technology advances and infrastructure projects become more complex, UAS usage can make workplaces safer and provide more cost effective delivery of civil engineering consulting services. Federal, state and local government are taking steps to regulate the UAS industry. 

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulates the airspace of the United States and the agency has the primary authority to regulate UAS and their use in the national airspace. The FAA has issued regulations for the commercial use of small UAS and will be developing additional regulations in the future. FAA regulations need to be developed to ensure that recreational, commercial and government use of UAS are safe.

While UAS have many promising civil engineering applications, UAS also create many social and legal issues. These include concerns about privacy, property rights, noise pollution, visual pollution, wildlife harassment, nuisance and general annoyance.


The applications of UAS in civil engineering are growing and expanding and include Surveying, Mapping, Monitoring, Data Collection and Maintenance Inspections. The specific list of services includes:

  • Construction Engineering and Inspection
  • Engineering and Geospatial technologies 
  • Site Monitoring Support
  • Broad perspective of features 
  • Inspection and monitoring of structures, including bridges
  • 3D elevation and aerial image and mapping information
  • Real time cloud processing
  • Surveying 
  • Bridge and Railroad Inspection tool
  • Peak Hour Traffic inspections- less disruptions to traveling public
  • Increased Safety in hazardous inspection scenarios 
  • Initial Damage Assessment during Natural Disasters
  • Assessment of Coastal and hazardous slide areas
  • Inspection of electrical transmission systems and other high voltage electric system infrastructure
  • LIDAR systems for data collection
  • Thermal/Infrared Mapping
  • Traffic Engineering Queuing verification at intersections and along roadways

Use of UASs for these and other civil engineering applications must be conducted under a regime that is safe and also compatible with local community standards.

ASCE Policy Statement 549

First Approved in 2016