Total Station

The total station is an optical instrument generally used in construction, surveying, and civil engineering. It is useful for measuring horizontal angle, vertical angle, and distance and it does by analyzing the slope between itself and a specific point.

The total station is a combination of a digital theodolite, an electronic distance measuring device (EDM), and a microprocessor with a memory unit.

This combination makes it potential to find out the coordinates of a reflector that aligns the instrument crosshairs on the reflector as well as measures the vertical and horizontal angles and slope distances.

A microprocessor within the device takes care of recording, studying, and necessary calculations.

Introduction to total station:

Total station or total station theodolite is an electronic or optical instrument used in modern surveying and building construction.

It is an electronic theodolite built-in with a electronic distance meter (EDM) to read the slope distance from the instrument at a specific level.

The robotic type allows operators to control equipment remotely through remote controls.

This eliminates the need for a support staff member as the operator holds the reflectors and controls the total station from the standpoint.

How to use a total station:

  1. Set the instrument to an identified level and set the horizontal circle.
  2. The coordinates of the point are to be stacked out.
  3. Turn the total station until the horizontal circle turns to zero.
  4. Keep the reflector at this point.
  5. Finally, measure the distance.

Types of Total Station:

1.Mechanical Total Stations:

They are used for routine tasks with highly effective built-in software programs and they are cheaper than different total stations.

Nowadays lightweight, compact and rugged stations are available which can help surveyors for a regular basis survey work including topographic survey, stacking, management, and more.

2.Motorized Total Stations:

This instrument is supplied with servo-motors that manage their horizontal and vertical functions.

The operator is not required to see the target through binoculars or due to servo-motors to align the prism.

This increased productivity by about 30%.

3.Auto-lock Total Stations:

This type of device examines the active remote sensing target (RMT), locking it and following the target as they move to completely different points.

There are more useful in poor and low visibility environments.

 This eliminates the necessity for time-consuming error prone and improves time effectively up to 50%.

Advantages of total station:

  1. This instrument can be quickly setup on a tripod using laser plate.
  2. They are programmed with the field computation onboard to calculate the area of a field.
  3. It supports native languages.
  4. It depicts a pictorial view of land and plots.
  5. This instrument has no error in recording and writing.
  6. It provides accurate measurement in addition to various traditional survey instruments.
  7. Data can be saved and transferred to a PC.
  8. It has a built in database.
  9. We can also computerization of old maps.
  10. All in one and multitasking instrument, from a survey of GIS development using application software programs.
  11. Fast work, saves time, ends work quickly are few extra ordinary features.

Disadvantages of total station:

  1. The instrument is more expensive than other traditional survey instruments.
  2. Examining and checking the work while surveying can be a problem for the surveyor.
  3. Total environment surveying requires additional environmentally friendly surveyors as it is not easy to work with this instrument.
  4. To verify the survey work totally, it is essential to come back again to the workplace and put together an image using the proper software program.

Application of total station:

Total stations are used primarily by land surveyors and civil engineers, both to record features in topographic surveys.

They are also used by archaeologists to record excavation, crime scene investigators, and personal accident reconstruction by police and insurance firms to take measurements of the scene.


The total stations is the first survey instrument used in mining surveying.

The total station is used to record the entire site of the tunnel walls, roof, and also function as underground mines.

The recorded information is then downloaded into a CAD program, and then compared with the designed format of the tunnel.


Meteorologists also use total stations to trace weather balloons to find out upper-level winds.

Moreover, total stations are used to trace roof balloons to find out the peak of cloud layers.

Such upper-level wind information is s used for aviation weather forecasts and rocket launches.

Also read: Sight Distance, Contour Interval, Chain Surveying & Tacheometry


The total station makes the measurement more accurate.

It records data on its inbuilt data recorder and produces maps within a short period of time, hence the time consuming would be less which made the survey work easier.

Hello, I'm Rahul Patil founder of, I had studied B.E. Civil. This blog provides authentic information regarding civil structures, equipment, materials, tests & much more.

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