Total Station: Types, Features, Advantages & Disadvantages

Total Station


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

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

The robotic total station 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.

Types of Total Station:

Mechanical Total Stations:

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

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

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%.

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.

Useful in poor and low visibility environments.

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

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 P.
  5. Finally, measure the distance.
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Total Station Features:

Surveying in dark and wet surfaces over long distances.

Poll from poll without using radio.


Measuring tight corners and narrow objects.

Time-saving through best-in-class EDM rate.

Immediate software/firmware updates in the area, along with the remote location of the lost or stolen unit.

Advantages of total station:

1. Quick setup of the instrument on a tripod using laser plate.

2. 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. No recording and error 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. 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.

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:

  • Robot control: A laser scanner can act as the “eye” of a robot.
  • Drawings constructed within types of bridges, industrial plants and monuments.
  • Documentation of historical sites.
  • Site Modeling and Layout.
  • Quality control.
  • Survey of Quantities.
  • Freeway Redesign.

Also, read 1. Accelerated Bridge Construction 2. Cantilever Bridge

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the principle of total station?

Given the position of the instrument and the bearing coordinates of a backward station, the coordinates of another point can be calculated.

What is total station and how it works?

The Total Station is a modern survey instrument that integrates electronic distolite with an electronic distance meter.
Total stations use electronic transit theodolite with a distance meter to read the distance of any slope from the equipment to a particular location.

How accurate is a total station?

A typical total station can measure distances up to 1,500 meters (4,900 ft) with an accuracy of about 1.5 mm (0.0049 ft) + 2 parts per million.

What are the types of Total Station?

Local attraction.
Resection (Free Stationing)


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 and made the survey work easier.

So total production is a total solution for survey work.

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