Theodolite V-S Total Station

These are two of the main surveying instruments that are used for measuring vertical and horizontal angles during engineering projects and surveying. However, there are certain basic differences between theodolite and total station.

What is Theodolite?

A theodolite is a scientific precision instrument which measures angles in the horizontal and vertical planes. It is mainly used for surveying operations. Some of the adapted types of theodolites are even used in fields like meteorology and rocket launch technology.

What is Total Station?

It is essentially is a theodolite- an electronic theodolite (transit) to be specific. Thus it can be called a type of theodolite which is integrated with an electronic distance meter (EDM) for reading slope distances between the instrument and a particular point.

Difference Between Theodolite and Total Station

The comparison of both instruments can be done on a number of criteria like components, features, ease of operation, cost etc, though the basic function of both remains the same – measurement of horizontal and vertical angles.

  • A theodolite has a telescope between the horizontal and vertical axes. However, the axes angle can be calculated accurately only if the operator knows enough of trigonometry. On the other hand, most of the total stations are equipped with software for site calibration, coordinate geometry calculations and other features for maximized productivity.
  • An assistant is always required to operate for facilitating the measurement and alignment of angles. This is not the case with the other instrument, especially when using robotic one as it allows the operator to work single handed with the help of a remote control.
  • A theodolite is generally suitable for surveys of small size plots whereas total stations are more suitable for survey requirements over large distances, especially for difficult terrain as their results in such environments are more accurate and dependable.
  • As far as cost factor is concerned, total stations are more expensive than theodolites and also require surveying training as well as software training according to the specific product and models.

Thus, after analyzing the differences between both the survey equipment, it seems that total station is a superior surveying tool as compared to theodolite due to its digital integration and all-inclusive features. However, factors related to time, expertise available, and cost also determine which one is preferred by the users. If you have decided in favor of total station, then there is more to decide about whether to use GPS version or not? For guidance, read GPS Total Station – Benefits and Drawbacks