Survey device protocols

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This page contains a list of digital survey devices that can measure and send coordinates via the serial bus (classic COM or USB), Bluetooth or any other wired or wireless connection. Primarly, this means total stations (digital theodolites) and GPS/GLONASS receivers. We plan to support such hardware as live input devices for the CAD editor (i.e. as alternatives to entering vertex coordinates via mouse or keyboard). For this purpose, we need to understand how the many different models that can be found "in the wild" communicate and which protocols they use when transfering data to a computer. If you have information that is not already on this page, then please add an entry or contact us via the user mailing list, so that we can amend the existing descriptions.

Here is a list of known web sites/projects that are concerned with similar issues:

  • Total Open Station - Open Source software for downloading data from a handful of total station models.
  • GOST - The GeO Survey Tool (GOST) is an open source Blender plugin for using total stations as input devices for the 3D modeler.

The list below is ordered by (1) device category, (2) manufacturer and (3) model. Alphabetical ordering of entries is applied on all levels of the hierarchy.

All information provided here must be taken as unverified (by us) unless stated otherwise!

When adding an entry, please make sure to apply the exact spelling (including capitalization and word separation) as used by the manufacturer. Do not copy and paste inaccurate terminology used on 3rd party websites.

Please do not upload or send copyrighted material, such as driver software and manuals, or web site excerpts, to this wiki, the mailing list or any other of our web sites. If such material has been released for free download by the respective manufacturer, then just set a link to it.


GPS and GLONASS receivers

Total stations (digital theodolites)

Total station survey data can be transmitted in its original form as polar coordinates (horizontal and vertical angle plus distance) or as absolute X/Y/Z coordinates (as computed by the instrument). Total stations use a euclidean reference system and are often set up to work with UTM coordinates or a local coordinate system with 0/0/0 defined by the surveyor. In addition to encoding of the actual survey data (and associated type and quality data), most devices support control commands that can be sent to the instrument to e.g. set up its own location without having to survey reference points in the field.


Many (all?) current Leica devices send (and receive) data in GSI (Geo Serial Interface) format, which is a plain text format that is very memory efficient. The original version of this format uses eight data characters and is therefore refered to as GSI8. A later version, GSI16, allows more data storage per transfer unit. Newer Leica devices can be configured to work with either GSI8 or GSI16. In adition to the measurement data itself, GSI can encapsulate device-specific control codes. Full details are available in this official specification from Leica and in more detail in the original GSI guide for Wild instruments.

FlexLine series

This series includes the FlexLine TS02/06/09(plus) instruments.

These devices uses GSI. See introductory paragraph for Leica devices.

Verified devices:

  • TS06plus

TCR 1205

This instrument produces an ASCII stream on the serial bus.

The Total Open Station project has verified this:

TPS100 series

This series includes the TC403L, TC600, TC800 (Firmware Version >= 2.13), and TC605/L, TC805/L TC905/L ('TCx05') instruments.

These devices uses GSI. See introductory paragraph for Leica devices.

TPS TPS110C/300/400/700 series

Leica lists the following instruments as GSI capable:

  • TCR110C
  • TC302, TC303, TC305, TC307
  • TCR302, TCR303, TCR305, TCR307
  • TC403, TC405, TC407, TC410
  • TCR403, TCR405, TCR407, TCR410
  • TCR403power, TCR405power, TCR407power
  • TC702, TC703, TC705
  • TCR702, TCR703, TCR705
  • TC(R)702 auto, TC(R)703 auto, TC(R)705 auto

See introductory paragraph for Leica devices.

TPS1000/1100/2000/5000 Series

Leica lists the following instruments as GSI capable:

TPS1000 series:

  • TC1100/L, TC1500/L, TC1700/L, TC1800/L
  • TCM1100/L, TCM1800/L
  • TCA1100/L, TCA1800/L

TPS1100 series:

  • TC1101, TC1102, TC1103, TC1105
  • TCR1101, TCR1102, TCR1103, TCR1105
  • TCM1101, TCM1102, TCM1103, TCM1105
  • TCRM1101, TCRM1102, TCRM1103, TCRM1105
  • TCA1101, TCA1102, TCA1103, TCA1105
  • TCRA1101, TCRA1102, TCRA1103, TCRA1105

TPS2000 series:

  • TC2003
  • TCA2003

TPS5000 series:

  • TM5000, TDM5000, TDA5000
  • TM5000, TDM5000, TDA5000
  • TM5100, TM5100A

See introductory paragraph for Leica devices.

Nikon NPL-350

This instrument produces an ASCII stream on the serial bus.

The Total Open Station project has verified this:




Zeiss Elta


This instrument produces four different data formats:

  • Zeiss REC 500
  • Zeiss R-4
  • Zeiss R-5
  • Zeiss R-E

The 'Zeiss REC 500' format as described by the Total Open Station project:

The Total Open Station project has verified this: