Total Stations for Surveying, Construction, and Mapping - EngineerSupply

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Total Stations

Digital theodolites are great, but total stations are much better. Not only are they more versatile and accurate, but they can also make you more efficient. You can measure and log the coordinates of specific points, and you can use the instrument to measure and record their distances from a specific point of reference. If you want to perform a total station survey so you can improve you efficiency on the job site, be sure to look at what we have at Engineering Supply.

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Total Stations Features

Read our Helpful Article: Theodolite Vs Total Station

Digital storage

One-person operation

Simple operation

Precise measuring

Great for professionals

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Surveyors today have access to both ancient and modern tools. And while a theodolite is a proven tool that can provide accurate measurements, a total station combines this technology with that of an auto level and an electronic distance meter. It’s also more accurate over more extreme distance, which makes it more flexible. But the biggest difference between a total station and a theodolite is that it allows you gather data electronically, which you can import to a computer. The downside, however, is that it requires more training to operate and has a higher price tag.


A robotic total station is an electronic instrument that can measure and record distances by automatically finding and focusing on a target. On a manual total station, the user has to find and aim each target manually with a mounted telescope. But with automatic target aiming, a robotic total station can perform this operation automatically. Not only does it save time, but it also eliminates the need for a second person. With a robotic total station, you’ll be able to perform any surveying job more quickly because it can be operated remotely by one person. Feel free to look at the broad selection of total stations we have at Engineering Supply, so you can find one that meets your specific needs.

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Theodolites have been around for centuries, but total stations are like better mousetraps. Not only are they more accurate over long distances, but they can also allow you to digitally measure and record specific survey points that you can download to a computer for processing. This is a huge advantage for professional surveyors, because it can save time while they’re on the job site. Be sure to look at what we have at Engineering Supply, so you can find a robotic total station or any other type of high-tech survey equipment that will meet your specific needs.


Unlike theodolites, total stations can be operated by one person. This can save you a great deal of time, but that’s only one of several advantages that these advanced survey tools have. They’re more precise over longer distances, which makes the total station survey process better than that of a theodolite. You can even use a robotic total station that will find and record points automatically. Feel free to look at the broad selection we have at Engineering Supply, so you can find a tool that will meet your specific needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I use a total station?

To set up a total station, you start by placing the tripod at the exact point from where you want to work. You then have to adjust it, so the tip is somewhat level. From there you can mount the total station onto the tripod while using the plumb-bob to center it over the mark. Once the instrument has been set up, you can perform the following steps to stake out specific points:
  • Set the instrument to a known point.
  • Enter the coordinates of the point.
  • Turn the total station until the horizontal circle reads zero.
  • Position the reflector to where it lines up with point P.
  • Measure the distance (which will be calculated and displayed automatically).
Be sure to read the manual that comes with your total station for more detailed information.

What is a total station?

A total station is an optical surveying instrument that uses electronics to calculate angles and distances. It combines the functions of a theodolite with that of a transit level and electronic distance meter (EDM). It also has an integrated microprocessor, electronic data collector, and storage system that allows measurements to be stored on the device (which can be uploaded to a computer for further processing).

How does a total station measure distance?

Total stations measure distance by using a modulated infrared carrier signal, which is generated by a small solid-state emitter inside the instrument’s optical path. This beam is reflected off a prism or an object that the user wants to survey, while the modulated pattern of the returning signal is read and interpreted by a computer inside the instrument.

How accurate is a total station?

Most total stations can measure distance with an accuracy of about 1.5 millimeters (or 0.0049 feet) plus two parts per million over a distance of up to 1,500 meters (or 4,900 feet). This is much more accurate than a GPS or any type of base station. But like any other instrument, it all depends on how well the user operates it.

What's the difference between a theodolite and a total station?

Theodolites have been around for more than 500 years, so it’s a proven technology that surveyors and engineers have relied on since the ancient times. And while it can be a good way to measure specific points, it’s just a telescope that can move both horizontally and vertically to align with a measuring stake. A total station has the same functionality as a theodolite, except for some other abilities that make it a better mousetrap. It combines the modern theodolite with the functions of an auto level and electronic distance meter. By sending out laser pulses, total stations can record more accurate information over longer distances than a theodolite. And because the data is stored electronically, you can transfer it to a computer for analysis.
If you’re looking for a place where you can find quality total stations that can give you the results you need, be sure to browse through the broad selection we have at Engineering Supply.

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