For any land surveyor, total stations are essential. It has so much importance that oftentimes it is known as the weapon of the land surveyors. It mainly comprises an electronic transit theodolite and an electronic distance meter. The horizontal and vertical angles are measured by the theodolite, relative to the set-up angle. The EDM uses the “time of flight” laser for measuring the distances to targets. This results in coordinates which are typically digitally saved.

Why are Total Stations used?

Most of the total stations are available with pre-installed software/apps and have options for installing more. When combined with the core features, a wide variety of surveying tasks are possible in the right hands. Conventional land surveying techniques are fast and more accurate than before. Surveyors previously needed assistants who can help them with operating manual instruments. They were using theodolites, levels, and transits. With the help of metal chains or tapes, distances were measured and recorded with pen and notepad. Several manufacturers can have different types of total stations and this can vary according to manufacturer and model. Survey grade models are available with the ability to lock to and tracking a target. This helps the surveyor to operate independently in safer areas. Another popular feature is Reflectorless EDM which removes the requirement for a prism for reflecting the laser back to the instrument. It is particularly useful in order to measure features at height like overhead power lines for measuring ground levels on adjacent land in which access is not granted or for measuring road markings on a busy road without putting the surveyor in harm’s way.

Are there any limitations?

The main limitation of using a total station is to conduct a topographic survey is the line of sight and range. It cannot measure what the laser cannot reach. Frequently with GPS methods, Total Stations are paired. The surveyor can freely roam and take measurements with the GPS unit which keeps a track of satellites for determining current coordinates. The data from the total station or the remote controller is output as points and lines. These are mainly combined with data from other tools that are used on-site and processed for producing 2D CAD line drawings and 3D Digital Terrain Models. Only the points and lines which are required to meet the survey specifications are measures. Most of the end-users are still using these styles of drawing for informing their decision making.

Total Station for Forensic Mapping

Frequently in traffic accident investigations, total stations are used for collecting data for reconstruction specialists. For over 20 years these devices have dramatically reduced the labor and time need for document and map vehicle accident scenes. The data collected by a total station can be easily imported into sophisticated and modeling mapping software. This technology can be deployed in several forensic applications and can be readily used for assisting investigators in systematically and accurately mapping fire and explosion incident scenes.


The way of data collecting by surveyors is getting transformed by laser scanners and drones. Around 20 million points are measured in a fraction of the time taken with a total station. A number of points are produced from which dense; data-rich deliverables can be obtained. Alternatively, lines and points can be extracted from the cloud for producing a more traditional drawing. The processing of the point cloud can be much more time consuming, mainly in places where standard CAD drawings are the main thing.

Established four decades ago, Dutco Tennant LLC is a reliable name in providing mapping & surveying equipment. We have a wide portfolio and we provide Leica total station as well; other products are Topcon Total Station, Trimble Total Station, Nikon Total Station, and other companies. We supply Robotic Total Station which allows the operator to manage the instrument from a distance via remote control. Total Stations are used for Coordinate Measurement, Angle Measurement, Distance Measurement, and Data Processing. Our wide-ranging portfolio has won rewards and recognition for winning the client’s trust and providing matchless quality, novelty, and a flawless safety record.