Video: This CivDot Robot Can Do Site Layout Autonomously

For contractors who have a site to layout, there’s now a robot for that.

On this episode of The Dirt, we hear from Civ Robotics, makers of the autonomous surveying robot CivDot.

Company founder and CEO Tom Yeshurun saw a big need for autonomous surveying, to show contractors where to build and what to build according to the blueprints.

The four-wheel-drive CivDot marks coordinates on the ground with paint that a worker following behind then marks with a stake. It also records ground elevation for how much dirt to add or how much to remove. It can travel all types of terrain.

Some popular uses of the robot include heavy civil projects such as pipelines, foundations and road striping and markings.

So to learn more about CivDot, the layout robot, check out this week’s episode of The Dirt.

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In This Episode

  • 00:00 - What is Civ Robotics?
  • 01:05 - Grade Staking Automation
  • 01:40 - How Does a CivDot Work?
  • 02:38 - How Does a CivDot Mark Points?
  • 03:18 - Why Does a CivDot Only Do Layouts?
  • 04:09 - Compatible Terrain Types
  • 05:07 - How Much Does a CivDot Weigh?
  • 05:38 - Battery Capacity: How Long Can a CivDot Run?
  • 07:12 - How Do You Operate a CivDot?
  • 08:53 - Can a CivDot Do Terrain Mapping?
  • 09:50 - Is a Base Station Required?
  • 11:12 - Required Training to Use a CivDot
  • 12:05 - How a CivDot Can Save You Time and Money
  • 12:53 - How Fast Does a CivDot Move?
  • 13:12 - Why Operators Like CivDots
  • 13:43 - Best Types of Projects for a CivDot
  • 14:50 - Final Thoughts & Outro


Video transcipt:

Bryan Furnace (00:00):

Hi everybody. Welcome back to Equipment World. You're watching the Dirt. I'm your host Bryan, and today we're here to talk about some more surveying things on an autonomous level. But we're not going to the skies today with drones, we're going to stay on the ground with Civ Robotics. Today, we have Tom Yeshurun from Civ Robotics here to tell us about a layout tool that could absolutely change your business.

Tom Yeshurun (00:28):

So I came from a construction background, and we saw a big need for automation of surveying, and specifically layouts. So our product is doing autonomous layouts, guiding contractors where to build in what according to the blueprints. Literally, marking coordinates on the ground with paint, and then nails, and whiskers, or stakes, and providing the contractor clear instruction of what to do at that point. If it's installing a pile of type A, if it's striping the road with dashed lines or solid lines, or putting a stop sign in the intersection, anything can be marked with it using our machine.

Bryan (01:05):

Now, can you put in grade stakes and mark those appropriately? Because that's where a lot of surveyors struggle.

Tom Yeshurun (01:12):

Yeah. Look, as a civil engineer in the road construction, we did a lot of grade checking and a lot of grade staking. Our machine lays out the coordinates and provides the grade elevation of the ground, and it can tell you how much to fill or to cut based on the ground elevation. And then the person mainly has to put that information on the stake, and they might have to do some offsets, but we provide the clear information to the surveying professional in the field or to the APCs directly. It's a tool.

Bryan (01:40):

So just to kind of give people an idea, and myself included, I'm assuming you kind of load your model into the little rover, and then you kind of tell it where it is in space. And then it goes and runs its program. Is that kind of the gist of how that works?

Tom Yeshurun (01:54):

Kind of. From the model, if using Trimble, or Topcon, or any other software of surveyors, you can export a list of coordinates that you want to lay out, usually known as CSV. It could be LA Long North and Easting. And we upload that to our machine, and we press start. And if you want to create a certain path, certain direction, you want to go northeast, north-south, or east-west, you can choose that on our platform and it will create the most efficient route to do so. And as it marks the coordinates, it also takes a high quality shot of elevation and provides that to the user in real time if they want to do for cut and fill, or later for quality assurance if you just want to do grade checking for instance.

Bryan (02:37):

Interesting. And you said this has the ability to mark and paint, or you can actually shoot a nail with whiskers into the ground?

Tom Yeshurun (02:44):

We've actually done the installation of physical stakes in the past. We no longer really offer that. But most of our customers, what they do is, they follow the machine and hammer the nail and the stakes right afterwards. So we basically show them where to do it. And the size of the spray paint is the same diameter as the pull of the survey. So the survey crew usually goes and basically puts that dent in the ground and the same side that's the spray paint. Or laser if you want to be even more precise because it literally just does a cross on the floor, and then you can put the nail right on it, or a stake as you choose.

Bryan (03:18):

So my next question was, when I was under the impression this was more of an active surveying tool, but really this kind of works in tandem with its drone counterparts. You may go out and actually do the survey itself with a drone. This is really a secondary unit that will come in and actually do your layout.

Tom Yeshurun (03:37):

It's funny that land surveying from the field has two tasks doing construction. To mark where to build and to measure what was built. During pre-construction and design, drones are great for seeing what's out there.

Bryan (03:51):


Tom Yeshurun (03:52):

And we're trying to help out the contractors to mark where to build. Actually, during construction, that's the biggest value. We actually started out with drones and pivoted to ground platform because it was way more efficient from an energy safety perspective versus drilling stakes with our drone.

Bryan (04:09):

So what kind of terrain can this thing handle? Because most contractors aren't going to want to go out there and spend a day leveling a site just so you can run this little rover over it. How does that work?

Tom Yeshurun (04:19):

So it's a four wheel drive system. We have five inch rack clearance and a 10 inch rack clearance models. And it can handle anything a buggy can. So we can surpass a lot of challenging terrain. We have different tire types actually right above me.

Bryan (04:34):

Oh wow. You got some nobby wheels too. Loving it.

Tom Yeshurun (04:37):

Yeah, that's Arizona terrain.

Bryan (04:41):


Tom Yeshurun (04:42):

And we have sand tires. We have mud tires, which are a bit wider. We have an all terrain tire, which is our typical one. And we also have road tires. We accommodate many tire types to handle these terrain. And from an inclination standpoint, it's a four wheel driver machine. It'll handle a 30 degree inclination. And it doesn't tamper with our accuracy at all because we have a very high end IMU in our system that takes into account the pitcher roll and ensures that our marking are precise.

Bryan (05:07):

So roughly, how much does this thing weigh? Is this something that one guy can comfortably take out and handle? Or do you really need a team of two to lift this thing out of a bed of a truck?

Tom Yeshurun (05:16):

So, you don't need anyone to lift it up. We recommend getting small rails and just drive it up.

Bryan (05:22):

Oh, excellent.

Tom Yeshurun (05:22):

But two people could lift it up, especially in the base models, which it weighs about 70 pounds without batteries. And our more precise model is about 95 pounds without batteries. When I say that because battery's weigh about 20 pounds. You want that battery because you want to run it for a long time, so.

Bryan (05:38):

Absolutely. That was my next question, is what kind of run time do you get out of a battery that size? That's a good size battery.

Tom Yeshurun (07:01):

Five hours run time, and you do a hot swap so you're good for the whole day. So we give our customers two sets of batteries, and they can run it for the full workday and just swap it out during the lunch break.

Bryan (07:12):

And then you as an operator, are you interfacing with the machine through an iPad? What are you using to actually interface and tell this thing to go?

Tom Yeshurun (07:20):

That's a great question, and it has evolved through time.

Bryan (07:23):


Tom Yeshurun (07:24):

So we provide our customer with a rugged tablet that they can see what the robot is doing at that point in time, and follow it. If it's the cut and fill for instance, it will really say what to write on the stake itself. The point name, the kind of fill, or the color of the stake. If you have a nails and whisker is, on so [inaudible 00:07:46] we've had 10, 20 color colors sometimes. So it actually tells you the colors. Recently, we released a software update with a speaker. So there's actually a speaker on the machine that speaks out the information. It says, [inaudible 00:08:03] red. And that means the person has to pull up a red nail and install that in. Or moving forward also, you can put any information you want there.

Bryan (08:12):

Now I do have to ask, as someone who also came from the field, is this a pleasant and pleasing voice that says red nail here? Or is it a screaming foreman voice so I feel comfortable and at home on the job site? Does it swear at me if I don't put a nail in immediately?

Tom Yeshurun (08:30):

It's not like Siri that if you ask her talks smack to her and it talks back to you. Right now, we have a voice of a British man saying red, red.

Bryan (08:40):

Perfect. Perfect.

Tom Yeshurun (08:42):

We're going to put more languages soon. That's one thing that we've been asked already is put Spanish, of course. Arabic as well for Middle East.

Bryan (08:53):

Now, is this capable of doing terrain mapping as well? Or is it strictly a layout tool?

Tom Yeshurun (09:01):

Look, when we mark, we measure every point. We actually do topos.

Bryan (09:06):

Okay, so it does topos as well.

Tom Yeshurun (09:07):

Correct. And the longer you stay at each coordinate, the higher precision the elevation will be. And you can define that in the software. You can choose three seconds, five seconds, 10 seconds.

Bryan (09:18):

For it to remain on location to further drill down into the accuracy?

Tom Yeshurun (09:22):

Correct. The X and Y accuracy is great within two seconds. It doesn't get much better. You're looking at about seven millimeters. The elevation though takes time to get that 15 millimeters, which is the high precision. I speak earlier because that's where most surveyors are. But about a half inch of elevation, that's if you stay there for at least 15 seconds. But if you stay for two seconds, you are probably going to get about a 10th, about three seconders accuracy, which is enough.

Bryan (09:48):

Now, is this communicating with satellites to get that information? Is a base station of some sort required? What are the requirements outside of just the unit itself?

Tom Yeshurun (09:57):

So our unit is just like a typical RTK rover. It can communicate with your base station over radio or internet, or through the [inaudible 00:10:05] service provider VRS. Any base station. Most of our customers use Trimble with us, and it works really nice together. But we've been used with other... We're compatible with many other companies as well.

Bryan (10:16):

So you will need some sort of a base station set up onsite in order for this to work and have the degree of accuracy that you're going to need. It's not a fully self-contained unit, I guess is what I'm shooting for.

Tom Yeshurun (10:27):

So customers who don't have a base station, we can provide them one. But to be honest, a lot of customers who work in near job sites in the city or within a certain proximity from the network. So there's networks for [inaudible 00:10:39] and VRS. And then they don't need anything. It's using the internet. So as long as there's a cell phone reception, we can get our correction data through the service providers.

Bryan (10:49):

Oh wow. Interesting, very interesting. So as long as you've got access to cell reception and you've got a decent signal, you don't need any additional equipment. It's handling everything.

Tom Yeshurun (10:59):

It could. You could do that. The closer you are to a base station setup that's part of the network, the more precise it'll be. So if it's 20 miles away, I would not recommend it. But most of our customers are within, usually, three to five minute miles, and that's totally fine.

Bryan (11:12):

So what kind of training is required on a system like this? This sounds pretty complicated. How long does it get you to get someone up to speed to where I could just take this thing out and start being reasonable with it?

Tom Yeshurun (11:24):

Give me an hour. That's it.

Bryan (11:27):

Wow, that's simple.

Tom Yeshurun (11:27):

It's that simple. There's four buttons on the tablet, new, start, pause, and stop. And all you have to do is upload the CSV file, which you most customers already have because they already generated that file for the handheld devices. And then just follow the machine and just listen. It will tell you if there's an issue. It will tell you what to do. It'll tell you where to mark and how many were marked. And the data flow is immediately. So when the mission is done, an email report is sent to management team or whoever you're choose in the settings. And all the data is there.

Bryan (12:02):

Now, I just really connected the dots mentally. So as a contractor, if I have a fleet of scraper operators, which we all know in the industry, if there is a single grade stake in the field, they will hit it. Instead of me having to call the engineering firm out every time, if I own one of these systems, I just call the kid that's got it in the back of his truck, "Hey come do the layout on the cut fill for the scrapers again." And within a half hour, everything's laid back out and they can [inaudible 00:12:28] over again, and it's not going to cost me 800 bucks to just have the survey out for three or four stakes.

Tom Yeshurun (12:34):

Yep. You said 30 minutes. I'll probably say five minutes. But yeah.

Bryan (12:39):

So it's not going to necessarily do the whole site in one pass. You can tell it specifically, I want these 10 points done.

Tom Yeshurun (12:45):

You can do a polygon in the area that you want to mark, press start, it will go mark. And if you're doing a spray paint, you're looking at about three points a minute.

Bryan (12:54):

How fast does this thing go?

Tom Yeshurun (12:55):

About three feet a second.

Bryan (12:56):

So you're going to be putting a little hustle in your step following this thing around with your bag of stakes.

Tom Yeshurun (13:00):

One of our customers, an operator, lost about 20 pounds in three months using our machine just from walking behind it. So his wife is really happy.

Bryan (13:09):

Do you guys add that as a sales tool?

Tom Yeshurun (13:11):

Look, there's a great thing here. We help our customers. And we actually like to have happy customers and users, because they're not necessarily the same person. The contractor can be buying the machine, but then he has an operator in the field using it who actually carries it. The operators love us because instead of carrying 20 pounds worth of equipment, on their shoulders and in a bucket, they're carrying a tablet and a hammer, and maybe like 20 nails. And the robot carries the rest of the nails for them also.

Bryan (13:38):


Tom Yeshurun (13:39):

So they really alleviate a lot of the weight off on their plate.

Bryan (13:42):

So my final question for you is, what applications does Civ Robotics really shine in? What are kind of, if you hit a high top three, where's this thing really going to sing and really going to perform in?

Tom Yeshurun (13:55):

Our bread and butter is solar farms because they require thousands of markings every day. We had a customer who laid out over half a million coordinates with our unit in the year. The second one is heavy civil. I would like to say distillery plants and pipeline. They're also long linear projects, but also they have a huge volume of points they need to do from the earth work perspective in the beginning. So foundation work, work drains. The last use case that's showing a lot more growth in the near future is roads where markings. If it's for parking lot or if it's for road closure that require markings for the striping, and for utilities, and for trenching, and for rails, barricades, anything.

Bryan (14:41):

Well Tom, thank you so much. This has been really fascinating. I'm really intrigued to go do some more research on this.

Tom Yeshurun (14:47):

Thank you for having me, Bryan. And have a great day, man.

Bryan (14:49):

Well, thank you again to Tom for coming on the show to tell us about the new Civ Robotics rover. I didn't ask what we should call this thing. But as you can see, this is a really valuable tool, even for a contractor, even if you're not a survey firm. Like I stated there at the end, as much as we joke about it, having your engineering firm come out to lay out stakes every time one of your operators knocks them over can actually add up to become a very, very expensive job site cost. If you now have a tool that doesn't take a tremendous amount of training that now allows you to put that power in your hands, that can be an absolute game changer. So thanks again for Tom taking time out of his day to come on the show. Hope you guys learned something. We'll catch you on the next episode of the Dirt.