If you’re a surveyor in Scotland, you should always be prepared for bad weather. Fortunately, on a stormy March day in 2018, Ted Harland was.

Harland’s company, Tri-Tech, was working at the Duntilland quarry near Glasgow. Tri-Tech’s client, an earthwork contractor, required regular measurements of the volume of overburden being stripped and removed from the quarry’s valuable stone.

As Harland ate breakfast and loaded his van that day, a storm nicknamed “The Beast from the East” was already wreaking havoc, with howling winds, heavy snow, and freezing temperatures.

Tri-Tech typically used a quad copter UAV to capture images of the quarry. Months before, when considering how difficult––even impossible––it was to fly the UAV in poor weather, Harland had purchased a Trimble SX10 Scanning Total Station.

TriTec #1

“I had the UAV in the van and I looked at the SX10 and thought well, it’s not going out on other jobs today so I’ll take it just in case,” Harland said.

Harland’s van also stocked with a Trimble R10 GNSS receiver and foul weather clothing––which also proved to be good planning. When he arrived at the worksite, the weather was terrible. Not only was the UAV grounded; Hartland found that simply walking around the quarry was slow and hazardous.

Even with the storm raging, Harland managed to identify 10 stations that could provide a complete view of the survey area. Using his Trimble R10 and Integrated Surveying, he tied each setup of the Trimble SX10 into the mine’s coordinate system. At each location, a polygon defined the area to be scanned. The good news, given the weather: the SX10 completed the measurements at each station in just a few minutes.

In all, Harland spent about an hour longer than he would have under normal conditions with the UAV. But he made up the time when he returned to the comfort of his office, thanks to the Trimble hardware and software.

TriTec #2

“With the UAV, it’s 12 hours of computer time processing the photos to generate the point clouds,” he explained. “By contrast, the SX10 data is already registered to the grid and the point cloud is basically completed in the field. So while it took an hour or so longer on site, the deliverables were actually a lot faster than the drone.”

For Harland and his team, the post-collection process was easy. After downloading the data to Trimble Business Center software, Tri-Tech technicians quickly combined the individual scans into a single point cloud, then created a digital terrain model of the site and prepared deliverable data. The results included an analysis of how much material had been moved, a drawing with a volumetric report, and a height-shaded drawing.

All in all, it was a pretty successful day’s work, especially given the working conditions.

TriTec #3

Of course, Tri-Tech uses its Trimble products for more than just poor-weather jobs. The firm relies on the SX10 when working building construction sites; it’s invaluable in guiding installation of anchor bolt jigs and boxes into building foundations. As concrete is poured, the Tri-Tech surveyors use the scanning total station to ensure the anchor bolts stay in line and level and that the finished concrete is at the proper grade.


“The SX10 went out and performed well as a setting out tool. That’s the beauty of it—we can use it as a day-to-day tool for setting out and topography. It gives us the flexibility to save money for our clients,” Harland said.

To read more stories about the SX10 click here.

About the Author

Trimble Geospatial

Trimble Geospatial provides Land Surveying, GIS, Scanning, Mobile Mapping, Remote Sensing, Photogrammetry and Forensics professionals with industry leading hardware and software solutions.