Machine Guidance

Surveyors have provided setting out services for civil and engineering construction for millennia, from the geogliphs in the Nazca dessert and the pyramids in Egypt, to the precise positioning of bolts that hold down generators in power stations and the drainage and surface of the road you drive on every day. Surveyors are involved in positioning and insuring that everything is positioned in the right place relative to the design.

In the last decade or so this has started to change. With the advent of lower cost survey quality GNSS (GPS) surveying systems, robust touch screens and huge jumps in processing power of field computers.  The setting out of civil construction items such as roads, drainage and other infrastructure has moved from the surveyor to inside the plant equipment such as the excavator, dozer or grader.

The plant is fitted with twin GNSS receivers, an array of sensors and then calibrated so that the position of each bucket, grader edge or rock breaking tip is precisely known.

This is where the surveyor is still an important part of the picture, the surveyor creates the 3D model that is broken into layers, such as finished surface, kerb lines, sewer, stormwater and uploaded onto the plant. The surveyor will carry out a “site calibration” to ensure that the design data is positioned correctly on the site both horizontally and vertically. They will also provide benchmarks for the plant to check its working edge to make sure that the plant is still positioned correctly.

Once uploaded to the plant, the equipment is then working within the virtual space of the design model and can accurately perform its operations with a fraction of the survey pegs, laser levels or other setting out guides normally required to complete the works.


This technology was once the preserve of massive projects such as mining infrastructure or new highways. As with all technology production costs have reduced sufficiently that this technology is viable for projects of all sizes, allowing small to medium civil contractors and builders to benefit from the improved safety, efficiency and ultimately cost savings this technology provides.

At RDM our surveyor have accrued many years of experience in creating and managing the complex data required to create the 3D models from large infrastructure projects through to 10 lot subdivisions, and breakwalls for harbours and river mouths.

In the case of a subdivision, 3D models can be prepared which integrates earthworks, kerbs, crown lines, sewer, stormwater and other infrastructure, along with the lot layout and boundaries.

RDM can model benching for trenching exercises providing compliance with WHS, reporting on volumes of trench excavations and taking the guesswork out of knowing how wide to start the benching in the first place.

RDM can also add “no go” zones that will trigger alarms in the plant letting the operator know that he is approaching a specific area, for example existing underground services, aboriginal heritage or a waterway buffer zone, etc.

RDM have considerable experience with all popular machine guidance systems , including Topcon, Trimble and Leica.  If you need further proof, just ask us to  put you in contact with one of our  contractor clients.

Please contact our Machine Guidance team today to ensure you are on the right track.

Click here for Capability Statement  – Machine Guidance