David Cook writes in the December issue of Geotechnical News of Total Robotic Stations and Remote Data Capture in civil engineering construction. He defines a Total Robot Station thus: “..survey instruments that combine a theodolite (with automatic target recognition) and electronic distance measurement, which can be operated remotely. “ In short, from afar you can keep an eye on the slightest movement of a series of points and decide what to do if things move more than they should. Clearly there are mining applications, although he, as a civil engineer, references none. If you know of any, please let me know.

Here is a copy of a fast-read description of Robotic Total Stations:

For many years, the optical transit was the surveyor's tool of choice to lay out property lines and building sites. By the 1970s, however, the electronic theodolite began to replace the transit since it could measure angles more accurately on both the horizontal and vertical axes. In the early 1980s, "total stations," which measure distances very accurately by using electronic distance meters (EDMs), became the instrument of choice. Then in late 1990, Geodimeter, Dandryd Sweden introduced the first "robotic total station,". adding automatic tracking and radio communication to a radio and data collector at the "target" or pole. Thus, for the first time, no person was required at the instrument--only at the target, reducing the size of a survey crew. Today three companies manufacture robotic total stations, Trimble (now the owner of Geodimeter, although it no longer uses that name), Leica, and Topcon. Once a tool for surveyors only, robotic total stations are currently being purchased and used in numerous ways by contractors--especially concrete contractors. One large contractor/construction company owns more than 75 robotic total stations.

Here are some websites that provide more information:

Trimble 5605 Robotic Total Stations

Leica Total Stations

Topcon Robotic Total Stations