Making possible robotics, rails and tunnels

August 29, 2022  - By
Image: 3alexd/E+/Getty Images

Advances in GNSS technology constantly expand the range of projects that benefit from them.

ComNav Technology

A telecom company adopted its CORS station to build China’s national CORS service for public companies. It is increasingly used for field robotics, including the development of self-driving cars.

Leica Geosystems

Bernhard Richter, vice president of Geomatics, Leica Geosystems AG, pointed to one of the biggest infrastructure projects in Europe, which aims to connect London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds with a high-speed railway system, avoiding the need to fly between those cities. This will have great environmental benefits because high-speed trains are much more efficient than planes.

However, high-speed rail requires tremendous precision. “First comes the prep work, moving dirt,” said Richter. “Then you must install the railroad ties with tenths of a millimeter precision relative to each other to avoid side accelerations. For a surveyor, it really has everything in one project. You need to constantly work with civil engineers. You then try to build as much as possible with machine-control-guided systems to make the leveling as automated as possible.” The project will include building bridges over whole valleys and monitoring them, particularly during the construction phase, to ensure that they are not moving.

“Even the factory they are building is huge, so just to build the factory you need a lot of surveying,” Richter said. The project is generating 25,000 jobs at 300 construction sites, all of which must be managed on very tight schedules. In this context, the quality of the survey gear is critical. “On a construction site, the surveyor should be an invisible person,” Richter said. “When they come with the big machines and want to get stuff done, they don’t want a surveyor on the site. So, he has to work off hours, then remain on alert and trust that what comes out of an instrument is correct.” Leica Geosystems is one of the main suppliers for this project. “They chose us because of our focus on reliability, trust and quality.”


Software is increasingly driving sales, pointed out Boris Skopljak, vice president, Surveying & Mapping Strategy and Product Marketing at Trimble Inc. As an example, he cited Trimble’s SX12 scanning total station, which uses Trimble Access software to leverage scanning, imaging and traditional total station capabilities in the field. “We have provided more inspection tools to enable people to decide whether something is meeting the tolerance.” The Trimble Connect cloud-based collaboration platform, coupled with the continuous field and office connectivity, has driven productivity increases and moved customers toward choosing the company’s solutions, he said.

As an example of Trimble solutions, Skopljak cited City Rail Link, New Zealand’s first underground rail network and the largest transportation infrastructure project ever undertaken there. “The Trimble R10 was integral to acquiring static observations above the work site, while the Trimble S9, DiNi and Trimble Business Center network adjustment were game changers for the survey control network,” he said. To expedite mine tunneling the surveyors used the SX12’s combined total station and scanning functionality with Trimble Access field software infield inspection tools. “Fewer customers are choosing solutions on a spec. It’s not about how many satellites you can track, for how many days, or how many points you can scan. They are choosing solutions based on the ecosystem and productivity.”

About the Author: Matteo Luccio

Matteo Luccio, GPS World’s Editor-in-Chief, possesses more than 20 years of experience as a writer and editor for GNSS and geospatial technology magazines. He began his career in the industry in 2000, serving as managing editor of GPS World and Galileo’s World, then as editor of Earth Observation Magazine and GIS Monitor. His technical articles have been published in more than 20 professional magazines, including Professional Surveyor Magazine, Apogeo Spatial and xyHt. Luccio holds a master’s degree in political science from MIT. He can be reached at or 541-543-0525.