Home Blog Total Stations: the Surveyor’s Workhorse

Total Stations: the Surveyor’s Workhorse


Total stations are indeed the workhorses of surveying, widely used by surveyors and engineers for a variety of measuring and mapping tasks. They combine the functions of a theodolite (an instrument for measuring horizontal and vertical angles) and an electronic distance measuring device (EDM) into a single device, providing accurate and efficient measurements in the field.

Here are some key features and capabilities of total stations:-

·         Total stations have high-precision angle measurement capabilities, allowing surveyors to measure horizontal and vertical angles with great accuracy. This enables them to determine the relative positions of different points on the ground.

·         Total stations use EDM technology to measure distances between the instrument and various target points. This can be achieved by using either reflector less measurements (using a laser beam) or by targeting a reflective prism placed on the object. The distance measurements are typically accurate within a few millimetres or centimetre’s, depending on the instrument’s specifications.

·         Total stations are equipped with on-board data collection capabilities, allowing surveyors to record measurements directly into the device. This eliminates the need for manual recording and reduces the chances of human error. The collected data can include angles, distances, and other relevant information.

·         Total stations can perform real-time calculations to determine the coordinates of surveyed points. By combining the measured angles and distances with known control points or previous measurements, the instrument can calculate the positions of new points relative to a reference system.

·         Total stations are typically equipped with a graphical interface or display that allows surveyors to view measurements, enter data, and perform various functions. They also have control buttons or a keypad for easy operation in the field.

·         Total stations can be integrated with other surveying technologies and software. For example, they can be connected to global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) for increased accuracy and efficiency. They can also interface with data processing software to streamline data transfer and analysis.

·         Total stations are used in a wide range of surveying applications, including land surveying, construction layout, topographic mapping, monitoring deformations or movements of structures, and as-built surveys. They are essential tools for creating accurate maps, establishing property boundaries, and ensuring precise measurements for engineering and construction projects.

Overall, total stations provide surveyors with a versatile and efficient tool for capturing accurate measurements and collecting data in the field. Their combination of angle measurement, distance measurement, data collection, and coordinate calculation capabilities makes them indispensable for many surveying tasks



1.       Wagner, A. (2016). A new approach for geo-monitoring using modern total stations and RGB+ D images. Measurement82, 64-74.

2.       Ehrhart, M., & Lienhart, W. (2017). Accurate measurements with image-assisted total stations and their prerequisites. Journal of Surveying Engineering143(2), 04016024.

3.       Lemmens, M. (2016). Total Stations: the Surveyor’s Workhorse. GIM International: the worldwide magazine for geomatics30(10), 20-25.

4.       Zschiesche, K. (2022). Image assisted total stations for structural health monitoring—a review. Geomatics2(1), 1-16.






Akshit Lamba

Assistant Professor

Dept. of Civil Engineering


Ph.: 7000684394 / 9039708050

Kalinga University Raipur (C.G.)


Kalinga Plus is an initiative by Kalinga University, Raipur. The main objective of this to disseminate knowledge and guide students & working professionals.
This platform will guide pre – post university level students.
Pre University Level – IX –XII grade students when they decide streams and choose their career
Post University level – when A student joins corporate & needs to handle the workplace challenges effectively.
We are hopeful that you will find lot of knowledgeable & interesting information here.
Happy surfing!!

  • Free Counseling!