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Pros and Cons of Acquiring a Robotic Total Station

Pros and Cons of Acquiring a Robotic Total Station

A robotic total station is one of the most advanced electronic instruments being used in modern surveying. But what are the advantages and potential disadvantages of these surveying instruments? Read on to find out.


The biggest advantage to the robotic over the optical station is that it has a motor in it that allows it to be operated remotely. This allows the surveyor to be away from the instrument, which CAN allow you to cut the survey crew by one person. This is a SIGNIFICANT savings to the surveyor.

Most modern optical total stations include the theodolite, distance meter, AND data collection all in the same instrument. The robotic just adds the robotic servo motors. Robots work all day and don’t complain. They don’t need water breaks or bathroom breaks. They don’t lay out drunk or call in sick when you have an important job to do. They only require a charged battery. Robots also are capable of turning more precise angles.

All these advantages lead to a lesser cost of operation as fewer persons are required to do the job.


With the introduction of robotic total stations, many surveyors don’t find the need for an assistant, choosing to survey as a “one-man” crew. As such, this does mean that someone may be unemployed. Of course, you could keep that person and train them for another job or use them to increase production.

Since electronic total stations have been around, there has been a tendency by surveyors to treat these instruments as “black boxes,” which means that you trust whatever numbers pop out of it without question. Even though today’s surveying instruments are extremely helpful, they are still just tools. Remember the saying “garbage in – garbage out.”

With the total station itself, one problem might be that electrical malfunctions could happen, especially in extreme weather conditions. A constant power supply is essential for the machine to keep working. Interruption of power or signals could happen once it loses its power and this could generate wrong data and could greatly affect the whole project.

All electronic surveying equipment requires routine maintenance and care. While these instruments are somewhat rugged, it is possible that rough handling and rough conditions can cause expensive problems. But, with proper care, this could be alleviated.

The most notable disadvantage for robotic total stations is the price. These machines typically run about double what an optical total station does. While this DOES require a substantial investment, with the offsetting of the labor cost, the payback on this type equipment should be relatively quick. My experience is that you could pay back the cost within a year’s time or less.

To sum it all up, a robotic total station is a great piece of machinery to have and will definitely help surveyors in cutting their workload and not to mention their production costs. But, as we mentioned above, there are other things to consider as you contemplate the purchase of one of these advanced pieces of surveying equipment.