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

The availability of new technology to automate job site tasks is rapidly increasing. Choosing the right technology for your firm, then implementing it, isn’t always a straightforward process. The ROI equation is sometimes unclear, and the implementation process can be complex. 

Robotic Total Stations (RTS) are a rare exception to this dilemma. RTS can provide impactful benefits with minimal fuss. It is also a straightforward technology, with a clear path to implementation. Here are just a few of its benefits:

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


Let us illustrate how RTS does this.


What is a Robotic Total Station?

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



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


A major construction company in Hawaii opted to pilot a Robotic Total Station when it was contracted to perform precast for a large parking deck structure. The pilot results would far exceed expectations.

Each precasting component had a dowel grouted into a sleeve that allowed prefabricated panels to be plugged in on-site. The firm originally built-in some contingency for a percentage of the 875,000 required dowels to be outside of specs.

The team’s accuracy using RTS far outpaced that original expectation. Not one of the 875,000 dowels had to be reworked. Additionally, there was zero delay onsite. All panels were assembled on time, as soon as they arrived on site. The end result was that the project 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.

With the use of RTS, the company has now become more competitive than ever. After the pilot, it changed its bidding process to include gains from its use.


What is the cost of a Robotic Total Station?


One low-risk way to pilot a Robotic Total Station is to rent one. After piloting RTS and proving its cost to value, you will discover many brands, varieties, and price points to choose from when you look to purchase. Depending on its specifications options start at $10,000 and exceed $50,000. 

In comparing your options, consider the following features and how they fit with your needs:



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


Robotic Total Station Benefits The Full Project Life Cycle

In detailing the benefits for layouts and quality assurance, we really just skimmed the surface of the benefits of RTS. In reality, there are clear productivity gains to be had across the full project lifecycle. This is how a Robotic Total Station’s benefits translate across hand-off points:


What It is a Robotic Total Station.jpg


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