For modern day Land Surveyors, this is nothing new. Robotic Total Stations are widely used in Land Surveying, worldwide!
Surveying has been around for a very long time. It is known as the second oldest profession and men have been practicing it since early 3000 BC. It was used in ancient Egypt when they built the pyramids, and was used by the Roman Empire to establish tax registers of conquered lands. Surveying requires a skill in mathematics and was one of the first professions to be licensed.
Shades of Asimov, they are among us. The robots are here. Now they are surveying the land, no, this is not fiction, but real. Robots are joining the work force in even greater numbers. Where before they were mostly used in factories, they are now mapping, or rather, survey the great outdoors for us. These robots, called total stations, can measure distances and even email the information to the main office and connect to GPS satellites if needed.
What used to be a two person job, can now be handled by one person. One person, with some robotic help. Now if you are looking for something out of Star Wars, well, you are going to be disappointed. R2D2and C3PO they are not, what they can do is save money and take the place of people in terrains that are hazardous or just too difficult to reach.
Check out Introduction to Robotic Total Stations
Surveying is used in many ways, it is used to plan construction, roadways, erosion control, to check boundaries and building locations. It is used to map out roads and define property boundaries. It is used in construction to make sure that the building planned will meet all building requirements for the location. It is used is a court of law to help establish ownership, in case of dispute. While it is an old profession it is one that is not going to disappear any time soon.
Surveying tools may vary from a simple hatchet to chop down brush that stands in your way to total stations that do the work of the second team member. This includes such tools as laser levels, laser detectors, laser distance measures, prisms, poles tripods, measuring wheels anded tapes. Don't forget the bags to carry all this stuff in, perhaps a backpack.
While a good share of these tools remain rather pricey the cost of technology goes down the more it is put in use. Still for a company starting up, the tools of the trade will still be on of the biggest investments. However, when you figure in work lost due to sick days on the part of team members, robots do not get sick, the cost of medical insurance, overtime and all the other expenses of hiring workers. Now compare the yearly cost of an employee to the cost of buying a robot helper and maintaining this helper. In most cases the robot will be cheaper and has the added benefit of being able to go places where a person might have trouble or may be placed in danger.
In the future we can look forward to even more advances in this field. Thanks to NASA and the advances in underwater surveying. NASA is even now testing a robot that will be surveying the Moon sometime in the future and tests have been made on an underwater surveying robot that will be able to go where man cannot. In the mean time if you have a need for a total station or just want to look, the Internet is full of places where you can get on of these surveying robots.