Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

NIST Research in Crane AutomationA 2007 Overview



Kamel S. Saidi, Alan M. Lytle


The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has been conducting research in crane automation since the mid 1980 s. A robotic crane (RoboCrane) based on an inverted, cable actuated Stewart-Gough platform principle was invented at NIST at that time. Since then several versions of the RoboCrane concept have been developed for various applications. In 2002, the Construction Metrology and Automation Group (CMAG) at NIST augmented RoboCrane with a laser-based site measurement system (SMS) and in 2003 demonstrated autonomous structural steel pick-and-place operations using the SMS to measure the position and orientation of RoboCrane and the steel members. Around 2004, CMAG implemented an active RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tracking system that can identify steel components from a distance and can track their location within a 4 m x 4 m area. Currently, CMAG is developing a generic crane controller using the NIST realtime control system (RCS) methodology in order to test and evaluate various automated crane control schemes. In addition, CMAG is working on methods and algorithms to identify construction components from high-resolution 3D scan data and to determine their position and orientation. The use of low-resolution 3D range cameras for obstacle avoidance and crane load docking are also being investigated. CMAG is also involved in measuring the performance of ultra wideband tracking technology that has potential uses in construction and other applications. Finally, CMAG is developing a small-scale, reconfigurable crane testbed (RCT) that will be used to develop, demonstrate, and evaluate various new automated crane designs.
Transportation Research Board


construction automation, crane automation, RoboCrane, robotic crane


Saidi, K. and Lytle, A. (2017), NIST Research in Crane AutomationA 2007 Overview, Transportation Research Board (Accessed May 22, 2024)


If you have any questions about this publication or are having problems accessing it, please contact

Created February 19, 2017