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Gmax27
(@gmax27)
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May 24, 2018 1:00 pm  

I am working part-time as a CAD technician, and I have been learning surveying practices at school. I have seen almost all surveyors using a data collector with a non-robotic total station, but I do not understand the reason behind it. I have been practicing with Nikon NPL 322, and I see that I am able to record points, use COGO functions, etc. For stakeouts and corner settings, wouldn't it be easier using a laptop? Could someone explain what benefits a data collector add?


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Dave Lindell
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May 24, 2018 2:59 pm  

My data collector clamps to the leg of the tripod.

I haven't seen a laptop that would do that.


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Daniel Ralph
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May 24, 2018 3:14 pm  

Generally speaking the data collectors are more robust (waterproof) construction, fit in your vest when not in use, and utilize the same software that the office workstation uses. 

Dan Moehrke, PLS


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holy cow
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May 24, 2018 3:22 pm  

Like every other tool in the toolbox, the data collector can be extremely handy when needed.  Some have become so dependent, however, that they would not be able to survey without it.  Much like being unable to add angles in your head.  It is simple to do, but it's a skill that goes away with lack of occasional use.

Maximizing one's ability to solve problems under varying conditions is a valuable asset in the long term.  Sometimes out in the field we must be able to improvise.


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LVSurveyor
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May 24, 2018 3:41 pm  

A data collector is essentially a laptop but in a more functional box. My place of work uses Trimble equipment, specifically the TSC3 data collectors. As others have stated, they are better suited for use in the field than most laptops and are specifically designed to be used in tandem with other surveying equipment such as tripods and poles.

Now a days data collectors are heading in the direction of tablets and laptops. The TSC7 that Trimble just announced looks more like a tablet with a physical keyboard attached and runs windows 10 operating system.

So in a sense, your thought is valid.


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thebionicman
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May 24, 2018 5:26 pm  

The base purpose of a 'data collector' is to log data from an instrument. Over time they have morphed to add functions like cogo.

Most would be more akin to a hand held computer than a laptop. As we see more terrestrial lidar and model based stakeout many are a ruggedized tablet or notebook.

CFedS, PLS ID-OR-WA-UT-NV


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Norman Oklahoma
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May 24, 2018 5:53 pm  

The trend in newer data collectors is actually a ruggedized tablet.  This data collector format that you are probably using (TSC3 for example) is really something of a throwback.

The earliest data collectors - the earliest ones that accepted keyboard input from the surveyor/operator anyway - were often programmable calculators.  Then the "Husky" came along in the mid to late '90s. It was a DOS computer but still had something of a calculator layout. From their we went to the "Ranger"c.2000 . It was a lot like a Husky but ran a version of Windows. There have been many variations on the Ranger layout and incremental upgrades in performance, color screens, etc. Several manufacturers have come out with their own version but the apple hasn't fallen far from the tree. 

Why aren't they laptops?  Mostly because ruggedized laptops were too expensive, too battery hungry (you were lucky to get an hour of run time back then), and much too bulky at the time the Husky/Ranger form was being developed 20-ish years ago. The battery part was probably the biggest reason.     

         

"Convention is like the shell to the chick, a protection till he is strong enough to break it through." Learned Hand


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R.J. Schneider
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May 24, 2018 6:21 pm  

It's a wholly valid argument that you are able to perform most, if not all, surveying functions, and the data collection, with the onboard software.

Right now you're using the Nikon NPL 322 with it's onboard software. The technology has progressed to the point that some manufacturers include most of their entire software suite internally. If you really like the utility of onboard software, you could take a look at Some of the Leica products that take full advantage of that trend.

If the question was why use a data collector you're going to find a range of differing reasons.

field crew


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sireath
(@sireath)
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May 25, 2018 1:41 am  
Posted by: Gmax27

I am working part-time as a CAD technician, and I have been learning surveying practices at school. I have seen almost all surveyors using a data collector with a non-robotic total station, but I do not understand the reason behind it. I have been practicing with Nikon NPL 322, and I see that I am able to record points, use COGO functions, etc. For stakeouts and corner settings, wouldn't it be easier using a laptop? Could someone explain what benefits a data collector add?

When I first started out with Sokkia Set3x, I used to wonder why would anyone lug another piece of equipment in the field if I can use everything inbuilt. (Shall not go into robotics). The inbuilt SDR software, I thought was robust and easy to use. Was easy to upload and download points using CF card or USB. However as you do more than collecting points, like finding monuments and such, The Total Station can't load in Google Earth or see what I am picking up live as I measure. COGO wise, as long as you are used to the unit, it is up to personal preference. There were instances, I needed to take photo and using the data collector, I could snap a pic and link it to the point I measured. 

So, a external data collector is useful if you require to do more than just collecting points or setting out. Especially with newer rugged tablets with Windows 10. They are more than just a data collector, they are a 'full' fledged workstation. I am able to email and communicate with my office if I require additional information instantly without going back to the truck or finding a place with WIFI. 

 


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Brad Ott
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May 25, 2018 5:16 am  

When I drop my laptop on concrete, it breaks.

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Andy J
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May 25, 2018 5:47 am  

Maybe I misunderstood the OP, but I thought he was asking why we don't use on board data collection then dump to a computer later...  


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Mark Mayer
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May 25, 2018 6:03 am  
Posted by: Andy J

Maybe I misunderstood the OP, but I thought he was asking why we don't use on board data collection then dump to a computer later...  

You may well be right, in which case I say that trying to work in the cab of the truck with a total station on your lap is really inconvenient. And, with on board, you can't switch between TS and GPS in the same job.

EDUCATION, n. That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.

EXPERIENCE, n. The wisdom that enables us to recognize as an undesirable old acquaintance the folly that we have already embraced.


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Andy J
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May 25, 2018 6:11 am  

Mark,

 

Totally agree with that.  The IDEA of on board collection and manipulation is pretty sweet, but those limitations are huge. 

And another to add to the list is that you are punching buttons on the instrument and risk messing up your setup.  

Andy


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Jack Chiles
(@jack-chiles)
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May 25, 2018 7:06 am  

I would think one will need a "hardened" laptop to enable it to function for any meaningful time in the field.

Be always sure that you're right, then go ahead.


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Shawn Billings
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May 25, 2018 9:21 am  

I think the OP is right in general. I like the idea of on-board data collection at the gun. If any serious calculations need to be done, it's always easier on a laptop in CAD than on a data collector. I would still want CoGo functions of course on the total station, but for any intense work, I'd use a USB to copy the points on the TS to the laptop and work from there.

Since I work for a company that makes an on-board RTK system, which is similar to the on-board TS concept, we've discussed the plug and play issue several times. In most instances where I've mixed RTK and total station work, I will perform all of my RTK work first and then switch to total station (there are exceptions but generally this has been my experience). It only takes a few seconds to use a thumb drive to export points from one device and import them into another. It's not as fast as plug-and-play, but given that it may only happen once or twice in a day, it's not a significant impact on productivity. Furthermore, the freedom from an external device and the connection issues with the external device that can occur probably evens out the time spent using a thumb drive to move points between devices. Someday I expect that a TS and RTK system with integrated collection will better be able to simply sync up the data making plug-and-play irrelevant. One more thing that on-board allows is that the TS can be run at the same time that the RTK is being run instead of only being functional with the DC. 

Shawn Billings, RPLS
Owner of Pendulum Surveying in East Texas
I also provide sales, support and training for Javad Triumph-LS RTK Systems


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