What is a Robotic Total Station?

A total station is a vital tool in surveying and prepping construction sites. It is an electronic optical instrument that accurately measures horizontal and vertical angles and slope distances from the total station to a distant point. 

On its own, a total station is a powerful tool that has made land surveying easier for engineers and contractors, helping them obtain accurate data over a vast expanse quickly and efficiently. The addition of robotics further revolutionized this instrument, taking its capabilities up several notches and redefining the standards for surveying accuracy and efficiency.  

What is a robotic total station, what are its benefits, and why should you consider investing in one? Read on to find out.

What Is a Robotic Total Station?

A robotic total station performs the tasks of a traditional total station but with the added benefit of remote operation. One person can operate this high-performance tool comfortably instead of the usual tandem of a surveyor and an assistant. The device can also perform many calculations in a much shorter period than a non-robotic total station.

A robotic total station consists of the following components and built-in features:

  • Telescope
  • Mounted controller with a screen
  • Laser-assisted electronic distance measurement (EDM) tool 
  • An on-board computer that performs triangulation calculations and collects and stores data
  • Built-in calibration tool
  • Built-in precision distance meter
  • Detachable or attached tripod stand

A robotic total station comes with a prism pole with a reflector on top. The total station tracks the reflector and uses it to calculate distances and angles.

How Robotic Total Stations Work

Surveyors begin by mounting the telescope with the built-in or remote controller on a tripod. The spot is designated as the control station. From here, surveyors set the coordinates (control lines), input environmental conditions (i.e., elevations, reflector height, or the distance between the prism and the ground), and other calculation settings.

Surveyors point the telescope in the general direction of where they intend to take measurements. Next, they take a prism pole and walk to the point they want to measure. Ensuring that the reflector faces the total station, surveyors can then remotely command the robotic total station to start taking measurements. 

From the station point, the robotic total station will spin, allowing the optic lens to scan the surroundings for the reflector on the prism pole. The telescope will lock on to the surveyor’s location upon detecting the prism. 

The controller attached to the prism pole will then prompt the surveyor to select the measurements they need from the control station to the spot where they stand. The robotic total station will then calculate and log the information, simultaneously transmitting the data to the surveyor at the pole end. 

What Are the Benefits of a Robotic Total Station?

  1. Faster Calculations: Robotic total stations have built-in functions and presets for the most commonly performed calculations during site surveys. Surveyors only have to tap once on the prism controller to get the coordinates of marked spots in a site, for example, or measure distances and angles from a specific point.
  2. High Accuracy: Robotic total stations have a high degree of accuracy. Moreover, the device prompts users when conditions might hinder an accurate measurement, such as if the telescope isn’t level and needs to be centered first.
  3. Higher Productivity and Improved Efficiency: The device’s convenience, accuracy, and speed enable users to survey more points than if they were using a non-robotic total station that sometimes requires users to go back and forth between the control station and the prism. 
  4. Improved Site-To-Office Communication: Surveyors can transmit data from the site to the office as soon as they’re done collecting measurements. Data handovers are much faster and with lower risk of errors.
  5. Cost-savings: Operations can reduce labor costs because they can cut the number of surveyors on site by half. 

Cost of Robotic Total Stations

What is a robotic total station going to cost you? The price of a brand-new robotic total station can be anywhere between $19,750 to $52,000, with the average price at $30,131. Financing a purchase can cost over $500 to $1,200 on average, depending on the number of months to pay.

You can also consider renting robotic total stations instead of buying several new units simultaneously. Leasing the equipment would be wiser if you can’t justify the acquisition cost with the usage frequency. 

Rental and purchase rates can vary based on the device’s features and capabilities. Of course, the more advanced the features, the more expensive the unit. 

Here are some factors to consider when deliberating the cost of renting or buying a robotic total station:

  • Range (how far the device can measure while maintaining accuracy)
  • Accuracy (level of precision)
  • Sensor stability
  • Battery life
  • Transmission range
  • Reflector sensitivity (how long it takes to detect the prism)
  • User interface (how easy it is to navigate the controls given the software design)
  • Ease of setup
  • Warranty and support

The Future of Robotic Total Stations

There is a growing awareness of the benefits of using robotic total stations in construction. As such, we can expect more contractors and engineers to upgrade to robotic versions of the trusty total station. And with continued innovations from manufacturers, we can expect robotic total stations to become even more efficient with each successive generation. 

Improve Your Surveying Efficiency With State-of-the-Art Robotic Total Stations

Make the most of today’s newest and most advanced surveying technologies with ATT Metrology Solutions. We offer high-performance laser stations capable of reflectorless measurements and a 3D point accuracy of 0.25 mm at 35 meters. Additionally, as a metrology company specializing in custom solutions, we can help improve your on-site efficiency through our custom software development service.

We’ll be happy to discuss these services in more detail with you. Contact us today, and let’s schedule an appointment at your convenience.

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