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Engineering Tools

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Modern Surveying Instruments and Engineering Tools

Their Uses

Following are the modern surveying instruments which are used for surveying:

  • Electronic Distance Measurement (EDM) Instruments
  • Total Station
  • Global Positioning System (GPS)
  • Automatic Level

1. Electronic Distance Measurement (EDM) Instruments

Direct measurement of distances and their directions can be obtained by using electronic instruments that rely on propagation, reflection and reception of either light waves or radio waves. They may be broadly classified into three types:

a. Infrared wave instruments

b. Light wave instruments

c. Microwave instruments

a. Infrared Wave Instruments

These instruments measure distances by using amplitude modulated infrared waves.  At the end of the line, prisms mounted on target are used to reflect the waves.  These instruments are light and economical and can be mounted on theodolites for angular measurements.  The range of such an instrument will be 3 km and the accuracy achieved is ± 10 mm.


Electronic Distance Measurement Instrument - DISTOMAT DI 1000


It is a very small, compact EDM, particularly useful in building construction and other Civil Engineering works, where distance measurements are less than 500 m.  It is an EDM that makes the meaning tape redundant.  To measure the distance, one has to simply point the instrument to the reflector, touch a key and read the result.

b. Light Wave Instruments

These are the instruments which measures distances based on propagation of modulated light waves.  The accuracy of such an instrument varies from 0.5 to 5 mm / km distance and has a range of nearly 3 km.

Eg: Geodimeter

Light Wave Instruments - Geodimeter


Geodimeter is an instrument which works based on the propagation of modulated light waves, was developed by E. Bergestand of the Swedish Geological Survey in collaboration with the manufacturer M/s AGA of Swedish.  The instrument is more suitable for night time observations and requires a prism system at the end of the line for reflecting the waves.

c. Microwave Instruments

These instruments make use of high frequency radio waves.  These instruments were invented as early as 1950 in South Africa by Dr. T.L. Wadley.  The range of these instruments is up to 100 km and can be used both during day and might.

Eg. Tellurometer

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