Total Station Survey | Functions | Applications | Advantages and Disadvantages

Total Station Survey

The total station or total station theodolite is an electronic or optical instrument used for surveying and building construction.

It is an electronic transit theodolite integrated with electronic distancedy measurement to measure vertical and horizontal angles and the slope distance from the instrument to a particular point, and an onboard computer to collect data and perform triangulation calculations.

Robotic or motorized total stations allow the operator to control the instrument from a distance through the remote control.

This eliminates the need for an assistant staff members as the operator holds the retroreflector and controls the total station from the observed point.

These motorized total stations can also be used in automated configurations known as the Motorized Automated Total Station.


Functions of Total Station

  • Distance measurement 
  • Angle measurement 
  • Coordinated measure 
  • Data processing 

Distance measurement

Distance measurement is performed with a modulated infrared carrier signal, generated by a small solid-state emitter within the optical path of the instrument, and reflected by a prism reflector or the object under study.

The modulation pattern in the return signal is read and interpreted by the computer at the total station.

Distance is determined by emitting and receiving multiple frequencies and determining the integer number of wavelengths to the aim for each frequency. Most total stations use prism glass reflectors specially designed for the EDM signal.

A typical total station can measure distances of up to 1,500 meters (4,900 feet) with an accuracy of approximately 1.5 millimeters (0.059 inches) ± 2 parts per million.

Reflector less total stations can measure distances to any object that is reasonably light in color up to a few hundred meters.

Angle measurement

Most total station instruments measure angles by electro-optical scanning of extremely accurate digital barcodes engraved on cylinders or rotating glass discs within the instrument.

The best quality total stations are capable of measuring angles of 0.5 arcseconds.

Economical "build grade" total stations can generally measure angles of 5 or 10 arc seconds.

Data processing

Some models include internal electronic data storage to record measured distance, horizontal angle, and vertical angle, while other models are equipped to write these measurements to an external data collector, such as a handheld.

Application Total Station

Mechanical and electrical construction

Total stations have become the highest standard for most forms of building design.

They are most often used on the X and Y axes to establish the locations of penetrations outside underground utilities in foundations, between the floors of a structure, as well as roof penetrations.

Because more commercial and industrial construction work has focused on BIM(Building Information Modeling) , the coordinates for almost all pipes, conduits, ducts, and suspension supports are available with digital precision.

The application of communicating a virtual model to a tangible construction potentially eliminates labor costs related to the movement of poorly measured systems, as well as the time spent designing these systems in the middle of a complete construction job in progress.


Meteorologists also use total stations to track weather balloons to determine upper level winds.

With the known or assumed average weather balloon rate of rise, the change in azimuth and elevation readings provided by the total station as it tracks the weather balloon over time is used to calculate the wind speed and direction at different altitudes.

Additionally, the total station is used to track ceiling balloons to determine the height of cloud layer.

Such top-level wind data is often used for aviation weather forecasting and rocket launch.

Advantages of the Total Station Survey

Used for distance calculations of 3 to 5 km. It is used to give the view of plots and land graphically without time.

You also have a role in the database. It is also used for GIS training. It also provides accurate calculations that are necessary for users.

Applications of laser plummets are also involveded in the total station.

It is also used to draw the map of the area with dimensions If the field work is completed and the data transmission is carried out.

Disadvantages of the Total Station Survey

To complete the job, you need to go back to the office and make drawings with a particular software.

The instrument is not cheap and is very expensive.

The worker cannot observe at work because it complicates his work.

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