What is a Robotic Total Station? Here's Everything You Need to Know

Implementing new technology on a job site can be tricky. The cost to value proposition isn’t always clear, and the implementation can be complex. Robotic Total Stations (RTS) are a rare exception. Implementing RTS can be straightforward, and provide major benefits with minimal fuss. Here are a few benefits:

  • More accurate measurements
  • Greater productivity
  • Fewer mistakes
  • Less rework
  • Better Quality Assurance

Let’s take a closer look.


What is a Robotic Total Station?

A Robotic Total Station (RTS) is a Total Station that allows remote operation. Simple in concept, this innovation means that you only need one operator, and can perform far more calculations and inspections in less time than with a traditional Total Station.

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What are the Benefits of a Robotic Total Station?

Implementing Robotic Total Stations on a construction site immediately provides a large number of substantial benefits, including:

Field Productivity

  • Faster and more accurate layouts
  • Faster and more accurate quality checks

Better Quality

  • Greater accuracy
  • Increased number of inspection points
  • Reduced errors and rework

More efficient office to field communication

  • Real-time data accessibility
  • Greater accuracy

Improved handover

  • As-built data
  • Faster completion

All of these benefits accrue from the key advantage provided by Robotic Total Stations:

Without Total Station

With Total Station

With Robotic Total Station

 Productivity Gain

 2 People Measure
 200 points per day

 2 People Measure
 400 points per day

 1 Person Measures 
 600 points per day


This significant increase in productivity allows teams to check more points, yielding better quality and less rework. Consider for instance, a ConTech Academy partner’s first experience with Robotic Total Stations, in this case study.


Case Study: Precast Parking Deck with Robotic Total Station

When a major construction company was contracted to perform precast for a large parking deck structure in Hawaii, they chose to pilot the use of RTS on the project. Each of the precasting components had a dowel grouted into a sleeve to allow prefabricated panels to be plugged in on site. With 875,000 dowels on the project, they built in some contingency for a percentage of the dowels to be outside of specs.

Using a Robotic Total Station to position the dowels, the team’s accuracy far exceeded expectations. Not one of the 875,000 dowels had to be reworked. All panels were assembled without delay as soon as they arrived on site. As a result, the body of work was completed two weeks ahead of schedule.

Not only did the contractor not incur the cost of reworking the dowels, but they saved cost on rental of equipment, including the crane that was hoisting the panels. Including the cost of the RTS rental, software, and training, the project manager reported an over 10x return on investment on the pilot project.

As a result, the company has changed its bidding process to include gains from the use of RTS, and become more competitive than ever in its space.


How Much Does a Robotic Total Station Cost?

If you’re ready to try RTS on your next construction project, you can certainly reduce your risk by renting one, as the company in our case study did. When you’re ready to purchase, you’ll discover quickly that you have many brands, varieties, and price points to choose from, starting at $10,000 and going up to beyond $50,000 based on specifications including range and accuracy.

Here are the features to consider:



What You Need to Know


Distance you can validate with accuracy

  • Infrastructure projects usually require a longer range
  • Vertical construction projects often need only a shorter range
  • Consider the average and maximum distance between your known control point and the points that you are laying out or validating


Level of precision

  • Detailed applications usually require a higher level of precision
  • Consider the average and minimum acceptable variations in specifications for your applications

Sensor stability

Ability to maintain lock

  • Better ability to maintain lock reduces disruptions and improves productivity

Time to acquisition

How long it takes to set up and find prism

  • Faster times improve overall productivity

Battery life

How long battery lasts between charges

  • Longer battery life reduces disruptions
  • Carrying extra batteries costs money and reduces productivity
  • Consider how many hours per day your RTS will be in service

Ease of setup and compatibility with design software

Complexity of the process from purchase to use of the product

  • Ensure your RTS will work with your existing software system, or that you’re willing to switch
  • Consider the amount of time your team has available to invest in the set-up process

Communication range

Distance you can transmit data

  • Some RTS require reliable access to Wifi, which may not always be feasible on your jobsite. In those situations, having a RTS that can leverage bluetooth communication is helpful.

Price, warranty, and support

  • A solid warranty implies a manufacturer willing to stand behind their product
  • Expect quality support


Using the RTS Across the Project Life Cycle

While we’ve focused on layouts and quality assurance for this article, the RTS is a solid investment across the project life cycle. Take a look.


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If you’re considering the use of RTS on your construction project, do your homework and learn best practices for planning, executing, reporting, and continuous improvement with RTS. Enroll in ConTech Academy’s free Robotic Total Station course for step-by-step guidance to improving your performance with technology.

Here's a quick preview of the course (0:53 min.)



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