Ultimate Buyers Guide to Total Station

If you are a civil engineer, surveyor, or working in construction, you probably know what a total station is. For those who ask, “what is the total station?” here is the answer.

It is a lightweight portable machine used to survey and measure horizontal and vertical angles and distances. The optical instrument has a camera that offers surveying, imaging, and 3D scanning.

It provides reliable measurements for analysis and engineering. Its components include electronic transit theodolite, electronic distance meter (EDM), microprocessor, and electronic data collector and storage system.

Additional equipment that is used with a total station includes tripods, tribrachs, prisms, and reflector poles.

Some of its advantages include:

  1. It is accurate to a fraction of an arc second and measures distance to a hundredth of a foot over thousands of feet.
  2. It is easy to use and intuitive. It takes simultaneous distance and horizontal measures and make it easy to calculate coordinates.
  3. It collects data quickly and can generate a map of the area
  4. It is quick and convenient to set up and can take multiple surveys from one location.
  5. It is easy to download survey data to computer assisted drawing (CAD) program.

It works under the principle that the coordinates of a point can be computed by the coordinate of the instrument position and bearing a backward station. It works by sending microwaves and infrared signals to the prism to the position you want to coordinate.

Types of Total Station Surveying Equipment

Manual or Mechanical

Manual or mechanical total station surveying requires two people to operate. It does not have a remote control or automatic features. You have to engage the EDM, move and sight the prism and manually turn the total station when laying out each point.

Two people must work as a team, one at the Total Station and a rodman to hold the prism at points around the site. Its display only shows angles and distances or coordinates. This total station is for use for small sites with fewer points.

Ultimate buyers guide to total station 1
Total Station In The Action


A robotic total station surveying is more technologically advanced. It automatically follows the prism as it takes measurements. It offers remote control abilities and increased safety because it can operate at a distance. It can be paired with a tablet as a controller.

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Robotic Total Stations offer greater accuracy because it offers certainty that the detail pole is held plum to reduce errors.

It is most often used on construction sites. It also can control machines such as dozers and excavators from a digital terrain map model.

Prism Models

Both manual and robotic total stations have prism models that are more widely used than reflector-less models. Prisms are used to reflect infrared waves to determine angles and distance by measuring the location of the prism.

Prism total stations used with the right software can easily make, in a straightforward manner, complete traverse networks.


Reflector-less can be manual or robotic total station and work without a prism. It works in difficult terrain and in places hard to reach by foot. It has advanced features and functions.

A two-man reflector-less total station does not need a prism but still requires a two-man team for setting out and surveying. It is possible to use without a rodman for some jobs, such as calculating excavation volume.


  • EDM offer long range prism measurements with high accuracy.
  • Scanning range technology offers high accuracy
  • High resolution imagery
  • Imaging such as photo grammetric measurements and video robotic controller
  • Integrated surveying with global navigation satellite receivers
  • Field to office integration with software for data processing, analysis and use
  • Optional locating lost or stolen equipment

How Are They Used?

Civil engineers, those in construction and surveyors use them to gather information, such as topography, record natural features, or plan for roads, buildings, and boundaries. It is also used for building information modeling, meteorology, mining, and archaeological digs. Its functions include:

  • Topographic, land, and title surveys
  • Roadway, corridor, and infrastructure surveys
  • Mine, quarry, and utility design surveys
  • Design and volumetric surveys
  • Power line and tank inspections
  • Crash and crime scene investigations

If you still questioning why you need total stations, click here.

Does your company need It?

If your business needs its functionality, contact Quinn Equipment, Inc. We offer solutions that make your work easier and safer, whether you are building a 2 bedroom house or a two-block industrial facility.

Quinn Equipment has been in business since 1967, working to distribute construction-related products. We can help you find the right tools for your company, business, and specific business needs. We are here to offer support whenever you need it.

Quinn Equipment offers Leica total station, both manual and robotic, to help cut your cost, collect precision data, save time and improve efficiency. We continue to supply products that make digging and building safe and efficient.

We are also Leica GeoSystems Building and Construction dealers of Robotic Total Station Solutions. Trust one of the well-known Leica total stations for your business. Leica Geosystems promise the highest accuracy and reliability and superb angle and distance technology. They also offer a powerful suite of apps onboard. The software provides the maximum productivity of your field data from collection to presentation.

Visit the Quinn Equipment Web Shop to find essential construction tools.

For more information how to pick the best total station for your business needs, click here.

Take Action Today
The secret to doing a great job is having the right tools for the job. With a high-quality total station, you have the power in your hands. Contact us for affordable prices and quality equipment.

Our Total Station Equipment!



Click to call Pat or Daly Quinn


Since 1967

Quinn Equipment, Inc. was founded in 1967 by Charles and Marjorie Quinn to represent manufacturers in the distribution of construction related products.
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Quinn Equipment
400 35th St.
Marion, IA 52302

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