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Surveying is one of the most important, oldest practice carried out, which includes, taking of
measurements on, below or above the surface of the ground and to plan the course of further actions,
based on the findings of the survey.
• In the old days people used to measure the distance between two destinations by manual
• Then linear measuring devices like chains (tape, staff) came in to use to measure the linear
measurements and cross staffs to erect right angles.
• All the readings are noted in field books or survey records and kept as a hard copy and the
calculations are done later.
• With such surveying instruments, survey work will be slow and inaccurate.
• In order to eliminate this problem, Theodolites are introduced.
• A Theodolite is a manual instrument that uses a movable telescope to measure angles in both
the horizontal and vertical planes.

• Then, E.D.M or electronic distance measuring device is introduced.

• This measures the distance from the instrument to its target. The EDM sends out an laser or
infrared beam which is reflected back to the unit, and the unit uses velocity measurements to
calculate the distance traveled by the beam.


• Increased land values and the importance of exact boundaries, along with the demand for public
improvements in the canal and railroad, bought surveying into a prominent position. More
recently, the large volume of general construction, numerous land subdivisions with better
records required, and demands posed by the fields of exploration and ecology have entailed an
augmented surveying program. Surveying is still the sign of progress in the development and use
of the earth’s resources.
• And so, as an outcome of continuous technological development, in the year 1971, Total Station
was introduced.
• For the first time, distance and angle measurements could be recorded by one instrument.
• A Total Station is a combination of an electronic theodolite, an electronic distance measuring
device, a microprocessor with memory unit and an electronic display.
• Total station is a surveying equipment combination of electronic distance measuring
instrument and electronic theodolite. It is also integrated with microprocessor, electronic data
collector and storage system. The instrument can be used to measure horizontal and vertical
angles as well as sloping distance of object to the instrument.
• Total station is the main instrument for the surveyors on site today.


1) Electronic Measuring Device

• Function: Distance Measurement
• Electronic distance measuring (EDM) instrument is a major part of total station. Its range varies
from 2.8 km to 4.2 km. The accuracy of measurement varies from 5 mm to 10 mm per km
measurement. They are used with automatic target recognizer. The distance measured is always
sloping distance from instrument to the object.
• A total station has a small solid state emitter within the instrument’s optical path. They generate
modulated microwave or infrared signals that are reflected by a prism reflector or the object
under survey. The modulation pattern in the returning signal is read and interpreted by the
computer in the total station. The distance is thus determined by emitting and receiving
multiple frequencies and determining the integer number of wavelength, to the target, for each

2) Electronic Theodolite

• Function: Angular Measurements

• The electronic theodolite part of total station is used for measuring vertical and horizontal
angle. For measurement of horizontal angles any convenient direction may be taken as
reference direction. For vertical angle measurement vertical upward direction is taken as
reference direction. The accuracy of angle measurement varies from 2 to 6 seconds.
• Most of the modern total stations have digital barcodes on rotating glass cylinder that are
installed within the instrument. Angle measurements is done through electro-optical scanning of
these digital barcodes
3) Microprocessor

• Function: Data Processing

• This instrument is provided with an inbuilt microprocessor. The microprocessor averages
multiple observations. With the help of slope distance and vertical and horizontal angles
measured, when height of axis of instrument and targets are supplied, the microprocessor
computes the horizontal distance and X, Y, Z coordinates.
• The processor is capable of applying temperature and pressure corrections to the
measurements, if atmospheric temperature and pressures are supplied.
• The micro-processor therefore saved the surveyor a lot of work.
• The data recorded by the instrument may be downloaded from the theodolite to a computer
and the application software in turn generates a map of the survey area. Many advanced
models of total station have built-in microprocessor to record and compute distances,
horizontal and vertical angles.

4) Electronic Display

• Function: Display
• Electronic display unit is capable of displaying various values when respective keys are
pressed. Basically its function is to provide a visual of what is happening in the total station.
Depending on the button pressed it helps the user navigate to the various menu items. It also
enables input of instrument and reflector heights as well as access to the stored data. It displays
horizontal distance, vertical distance, horizontal and vertical angles, difference in elevations of
two observed points and all the three coordinates of the observed points (XYZ).


• Civil engineering & Surveying companies -retrieving intricate and detailed measurements out in
the field
• Archeologists -record excavations and researching a historical location to ensure the most
accurate recording of information collected.
• Police and detective branches -to collect a complete and accurate recording of a crime scene
• Private accident Reconstructionist and insurance companies -take measurements of scenes
• Mining -mine grid, tunneling


• Field work is carried out very fast.
• Accuracy of measurement is high.
• Manual errors involved in reading and recording are eliminated.
• Most accurate and user friendly.
• Digital design data from CAD programs can be uploaded to data collector.
• Daily survey information can also be quickly downloaded into CAD which eliminates data
manipulation time required using conventional survey techniques.
• Total station is a compact instrument and weighs 50 to 55 N. A person can easily carry it to the
field. Total stations with different accuracy, in angle measurement and different range of
measurements are available in the market.
• It’s reduce time and measure up to 3-5 km.


• The instrument is costlier than other conventional surveying instruments.
• As with any computer-based application “Garbage in equals Garbage out”. However, in the case
of inaccurate construction surveys “Garbage in equals lawsuits and contractors claims for
• The instrument is costly, skilled personnel are required in operating instrument.


• Use both hands to hold the total station handle.
• Set up the tripod as stable as possible.
• Do not move or carry a tripod with the total station fixed on it, except for centering.
• Do not over tighten any of the clamp screws.
• Make sure not to short battery terminals. If these are shorted the resulting high current would
not only damage to battery but also start fire.
• If the battery or instrument comes in contact with water. Wipe it quick and set in dry place.
• Never disassemble the instrument, if you find a problem, contact the expert.
• The total stations emit a laser during operation. DO NOT stare into the beam or laser source
when instrument is operation.