Total Station Surveying Basics: Instruments, Techniques and Software

Total station surveying is a crucial method for measuring angles, distances, and coordinates of points in three-dimensional space. We will cover the basic concepts, techniques, and software used in land surveying with total stations. We will help you understand what a total station is, how it works, and how to use it effectively for your surveying tasks.

What is a Total Station?

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How Does a Total Station Work?

An electronic theodolite measures angles in both the vertical and horizontal planes. This is achieved by using a rotating and tilting mechanism that allows the surveyor to point the instrument at a specific target and measure the angle of elevation or depression.

The electronic distance meter measures distances using electromagnetic waves. The EDM sends out an electromagnetic wave and measures the time it takes for the wave to bounce back to the total station.
This measurement is then used to calculate the distance between the total station and the target.

How to Use a Total Station

To use a total station, the surveyor first points the instrument at the target and measures the angle of elevation or depression using the electronic theodolite. The EDM then calculates the distance between the total station and the target. This combination of angle and distance measurements allows the total station to determine the position of the target in three-dimensional space.

The surveyor can use coordinate geometry (COGO) software to determine the coordinates of an unknown point relative to a known coordinate. It is essential to take enough measurements from different angles and distances to ensure accuracy and minimise measurement errors.

Using Total Stations with GNSS Receivers

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There are various kinds of software for total stations

Data Collection Software

This type of software is used to collect and store measurements, manage survey projects, and perform basic calculations.

Post Processing Software

This type of software is used to process the data collected in the field and generate maps, reports, and other outputs. It can also perform coordinate geometry calculations, map creation, and 3D modelling.

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Geographic Information System (GIS) Software

This type of software is used to manage, analyse, and visualise geographic data, and can be used to integrate data collected from total stations with other geospatial data.

Choosing the Right Type of Total Station for the Job

When selecting a total station for a surveying job, it is crucial to consider the required accuracy, range, and level of automation.
Depending on the survey area, the job requirements, and the level of human involvement, different types of total stations may be suitable, such as robotic total stations, long-range total stations with reflectors or reflectors-less measurement options. Selecting the right total station for the task can ensure the highest quality results and an increase in efficiency and productivity.

We have an article to help you with the various options here: Guide to choosing the right Total Station

By understanding the basic concepts, techniques, and software of total stations, surveyors can choose the right instrument for the job, collect and process data accurately, and achieve their surveying goals effectively. If you need help, feel free to contact us, and our team will be happy to assist you in finding the best total station solution for your surveying needs.