The Observation Theodolite: A Tool For Many Trades

In general, an observation theodolite is an optical instrument that allows one to measure angles in both the vertical and horizontal planes. There are many different types of theodolites and these devices are used by many professionals to help make important calculations. Here’s a quick look at which trades use theodolites and why.

Surveyors & Engineers
Many different types of surveyors and engineers use theodolites to help them with a myriad of construction and engineering projects. For instance, if you are beginning the construction of a building, you need to ensure that the ground is level and a theodolite can help one measure the slope of a plot of land. Ensuring that the ground is level is also important with the construction of bridges, freeway overpasses and roads. Most of us probably have seen an engineer or surveyor standing in the road or on a construction site looking through a theodolite.

Theodolites also can be used in the construction of mines and other underground structures. Additionally, a theodolite also might be used to measure ground movement and movement over time in a bridge or building. From time to time, most structures need to be studied to ensure that the structural integrity is sound, and an observation theodolite might be used to complete this task.

Predicting the weather is no easy task, but an observation theodolite or perhaps a pilot balloon theodolite can help meteorologists. Theodolites often are used to track the progress of weather balloons. It might surprise you to know that weather balloons still are commonly used devices to help with the prediction of weather patterns. The weather balloon can be used to help determine both wind speed and wind direction. The balloons are filled with helium or hydrogen, as these gases are lighter than air and some can reach altitudes far higher than commercial airlines fly, even up to about 100,000 feet above ground.

Navigation & Aeronautics
While a hobby pilot or weekend sailor might not make use of an observation theodolite, these devices are used on large ships, both military and commercial to help with navigation as well as observing objects in the distance. Telemetering theodolites also are used to calibrate navigational aids such as Instrument Landing Systems (ILS) as well as VORTAC and MLS and several other helpful systems and aids. You’ll find these navigational aids at airports around the world. For instance, VORTAC stands for VHF Omnidirectional Range/Tactical Aircraft Control and provides military pilots with information regarding azimuth.

While there are some portable observation theodolites, our own WK-20-8500 Observation Theodolite has been designed for permanent facilities. This theodolite includes a 21-power main telescope and a wide 4-power finder telescope through one eyepiece. It offers full 360-degree vertical and horizontal circles, and this permits sightings from zenith to 10 degrees below the horizontal as well as the full traverse to the right or to the left.

For more information about this observation theodolite or our other theodolites, go to our home page and click the tab marked “Theodolites.” In addition to the aforementioned observation theodolite, we also sell telemetering theodolites, pilot balloon theodolites and electronic meteorological theodolites.

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