Tunnel-boring machine positioning during microtunneling operations through integrating automated data collection with real-time computing

Xuesong Shen, Ming Lu, Wu Chen

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


This research aims to develop an automated and cost-effective solution to guide the advance of a tunnel-boring machine (TBM) during microtunneling and pipe jacking operations. Pros and cons of currently available TBM guidance systems are evaluated. A simplified TBM guidance system is proposed based on integration of automated data collection with real-time computing. The TBM's position in terms of point coordinates is continuously and automatically surveyed by a robotic total station, thus making it feasible to derive any line and level deviations from as-designed tunnel alignment in real time. Furthermore, given the coordinates of three observation points on the TBM, the attitudes of the TBM, which are described by three rotation angles of yaw, pitch, and roll, can be determined by a vector observation algorithm. Monte Carlo simulation was conducted to assess errors of point positioning and attitude determination by the proposed solution. For concept proving and application demonstration, a hardware-software integrated prototype system was developed in house and validation experiments were successfully conducted in terms of: (1) automated surveying of multiple targets; (2) attitude determination for a moving object that mimicked a working TBM; and (3) field installation and testing based on an ongoing project.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-85
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Construction Engineering and Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011


  • Automation
  • Microtunneling
  • Navigation
  • Robotics
  • Trenchless technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Industrial relations
  • Strategy and Management

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