Performs point triangulation using the SDR33 total station
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Sokkia SDR 33 Point Triangulation

This repository contains code for reading an SDR33 data logger file and using the angular observations recorded therein to triangulate the position of points of interest.


The Sokkia SDR33 data logger is used in surveying to record data from, and to control, certain total stations.

A total station works by firing a laser pulse at a distant object and recording the length of time it takes for the pulse to return. This can be used to calculate the distance to the object. Since the total station also records the angles at which the pulse is fired, the distant object can be located in 3D space. The angles and reflection time of the pulse can be measured to a high degree of accuracy, allowing 3D position to be measured with accuracies of less than a centimeter.

Some total stations can record the laser's reflection off of a variety of surfaces, but, more commonly, the total station requires the use of a special mirror or "prism" for the reflection to work.

Situations arise where a point to be surveyed cannot be accessed with the prism. The location of such points cannot be directly determined.

However, the location of such a point can be triangulated by moving the total station to two different locations and measuring the angles from each of these locations to the unknown point. This is known as triangulation.

Since the SDR33 data logger does not have a triangulation option built in an external program must be used to post-process the data. The program associated with this README file performs this post-processing. The program reads an unreduced SDR33 data file produced with Sokkia's ProLink software and returns the triangulated position of one or more points.


The total station has been set up in two locations, B and C, from which it has taken angular measurements to a point of interest A.

All of the angular measurements are expressed in the range [0°,360°) with 0° being North.

Because B and C have known locations, the distance d between them is also known. Likewise known are the red angles γ (from B to C) and δ (from C to B).

The green angles α (from B to A) and β (from C to A) denote the angle from a station to the object of interest.

By subtracting the green angles from the red angles, taking an absolute value, and constraining the resulting angle to the range [0°, 180°), the blue angles ε and η result. These are two of the interior angles of the triangle formed by the station locations and the point of interest.

The third angle of the triangle is easily found, since a triangle has 180°.

The Law of Sines can then be used to deduce the vectors b and c from both stations to the point of interest.

Examples of two possible setups are depicted below.

Example One

Layout of triangulation mathematics

Example Two

An alternative layout of triangulation mathematics


The file example.sdr contains SDR33 survey data of a river channel on the Olympic Peninsula. A second file, example-point-pairs contains a list of paired angles which are to be used to triangulate the position of the far side of the river channel, which was otherwise uncrossable. When taking data in the field, each pair of points should be noted so this file can later be created.

The output of running the program is a comma-separated value file where station locations, prism-observed points, and triangulated points are all noted. An example based on the aforementioned data is shown below. The blue squares are the station locations from which the triangulations were made, the red diamonds are points surveyed with the prism, and the yellow triangles are the triangulated points.

Example of graphed output of the triangulation program

The example can be run by typing

./ example.sdr example-point-pairs

giving the following (truncated) output: