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What is a Distomat: Purpose, Uses and Importance

what is a distomat

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In the world of construction and engineering, accurate measurement tools are indispensable. One such tool that has become a cornerstone in these industries is the distomat.

What is a Distomat?

Explanation of the Distomat as an Electronic Distance Measurement Device

measure engineerThe distomat is an electronic distance measurement device, often called an electronic distance meter (EDM). Its primary function is to measure distances accurately. It emits an infrared beam that travels to a specific target (reflector) and then reflects to the instrument.

The distomat’s internal mechanism records the time it takes for the beam to return, enabling the device to calculate the distance between itself and the target based on the speed of light.

It can measure distances up to 500 meters with high precision, making it an invaluable tool in applications where accurate distance measurements are critical, such as construction and engineering projects.

Compact Size

One of the distinguishing features of the distomat is its compact size. Despite its tiny footprint, it packs a lot of power and precision. This compact design makes it easy to handle and transport, allowing it to be used in various environments, from the tight spaces of a construction site to the expansive landscapes of a civil engineering project.

How It Fits on the Telescope of an Electronic Theodolite

The distomat is not just a standalone device; it’s designed to be a component of a more extensive system. Specifically, it’s designed to fit on the telescope of an electronic theodolite, a surveying instrument used to measure horizontal and vertical angles. When paired with a theodolite, the distomat forms part of a ‘total station,’ a device that can measure angles, elevation, and distances, providing comprehensive data for surveying and construction tasks.

The distomat’s compact size and ability to integrate with other devices speak to its flexibility and versatility, contributing to its widespread use in the construction and engineering industries.

Importance of Distomat in Construction and Engineering Works

In construction and engineering, the distomat has become an integral tool for professionals. Its ability to measure distances accurately and quickly provides significant advantages in these industries, where precision is paramount.

Whether mapping out the layout for a new building or assessing the topography for a civil engineering project, the distomat offers reliable measurements that help engineers and construction professionals complete their tasks with greater accuracy and efficiency.

Other Distomat Roles

The distomat’s role extends beyond merely measuring distances; it assists in mapping, positioning, and orientating large-scale objects in various industries, making it a versatile tool for professionals. Its use of infrared wave technology increases its accuracy and makes it a cost-effective solution for distance measurement.

In this rapidly advancing world where precision, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness are prized, the distomat has proven to be a valuable asset. As we delve into the workings, applications, and advantages of the distomat, we will gain a deeper understanding of its pivotal role in shaping the landscapes of construction and engineering.

Find this interesting 2017 study that used a Distomat to measure the Mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet at Patriot Hills, published on the Cambridge University page.

The Working Principle of a Distomat

How the Distomat Measures Distance Smaller Than 500 Meters by Pointing the Instrument to a Reflector and Reading the Result

Measuring distance with a distomat begins by pointing the instrument towards a reflector. The reflector, usually a specially designed prism, is set up at the point where the distance is measured. When the distomat is activated, it sends an infrared beam toward the reflector. The beam then bounces back to the distomat after hitting the reflector.

How the Distomat Transmits an Infrared Beam That Reflects off the Unit by the Reflector and Records the Time Taken by the Ray to Return to the Receiving End

The core of the distomat’s operation lies in its use of infrared technology. The device transmits an infrared beam that travels to the reflector and then reflects to the device. As this happens, the distomat records the time it takes for the beam to return to the instrument.

This use of infrared technology is significant for several reasons. Firstly, infrared waves have a longer wavelength than visible light, which allows them to travel greater distances without being scattered or absorbed. Secondly, infrared technology makes the distomat a more cost-effective solution for distance measurement, as infrared devices are generally less expensive than their laser counterparts.

How the Distance and Time Taken to Travel by the Ray is Calculated Automatically and Displayed, Allowing for the Measurement of the Distance Between Two Points

The distomat’s ability to measure distances lies in its use of the basic principles of physics. Knowing that light (including infrared light) travels at a constant speed, the device can calculate the distance the light has traveled based on the time it took for the beam to return.

After the infrared beam is reflected to the distomat, the device calculates the distance based on the travel time of the beam. This distance is then automatically displayed on the distomat’s screen, giving the user a precise measurement of the distance between the distomat and the reflector.

distomat usesThis automated process ensures quick and accurate results, making the distomat an invaluable tool in professions where precise measurements are vital. It enables professionals in fields like construction and engineering to obtain reliable distance measurements in real-time, significantly enhancing their efficiency and productivity.

Use of Infrared Waves in Distomat

How the Distomat Falls Under the Category of Infrared Wave Instruments

The distomat is classified under the category of infrared wave instruments. This classification is based on the fact that the distomat uses modulated infrared waves to function. When the distomat is pointed towards a reflector and activated, it transmits a modulated infrared beam towards the reflector.

How It Works With the Help of Modulated Infra-Red Waves

The term ‘modulated’ refers to altering the wave characteristics (like amplitude or frequency) to carry information. In this case, the data is when the wave travels to the reflector and back. This modulation is crucial for accurately measuring distances, making the distomat a precise instrument for various applications.

Why Infrared Wave Instruments Are Used in Civil Engineering Surveying

In civil engineering surveying, accuracy, cost-effectiveness, and speed are all crucial factors in selecting the right tools for the job. Infrared wave instruments like the distomat fulfill all these requirements, making them a popular choice for professionals in the field.


Infrared wave instruments are known for their high degree of accuracy. They can measure distances up to 3 – 5 kilometers, making them suitable for various applications. Infrared technology allows for high precision, ensuring reliable and accurate measurements.


This is another significant benefit of infrared wave instruments. Compared to other types of technology, infrared devices tend to be less expensive, making them a more accessible option for many companies and individuals. Despite their lower cost, these devices deliver excellent performance, providing a high return on investment for those who use them.

In conclusion, the distomat’s use of infrared waves is a testament to the device’s advanced technology and practical application. Its ability to deliver accurate results cost-effectively has made it an essential tool in construction and engineering.

Applications of Distomat

Use of Distomat in Electronic Surveying Instruments

Beyond construction and civil engineering, the distomat is also integral to electronic surveying instruments. These devices measure features, orientation, and positioning of large-scale objects across various industries.

  • In engineering and construction, electronic surveying instruments equipped with distomats are used to mark the position and layout of new structures. This helps to ensure that systems are built accurately according to the design plans, minimizing the risk of errors that could compromise the safety and functionality of the structures.
  • In the mapping industry, distomats assist with creating detailed and accurate maps. By measuring distances between various points, these devices help to depict the physical features of an area accurately, contributing to the creation of reliable maps.
  • The defense industry also benefits from the use of distomats. These devices can help to measure distances and positioning in the field, aiding in strategic planning and decision-making processes.

The distomat’s precision and versatility make it a valuable tool in various industries. Whether for measuring the distance between two points on a construction site or mapping out large areas for defense strategies, the distomat delivers accurate results reliably, making it an indispensable tool for professionals in various fields.

Final Thoughts on the Impact of Distomat

The advent of the distomat has undeniably transformed modern construction and engineering works. Its precise measurements and user-friendly design have replaced many conventional tools, making distance measurement faster, more accurate, and more efficient.

The distomat’s impact extends beyond just measurement – it contributes to the overall success of projects, ensuring structures are built to design specifications, the land is accurately surveyed, and strategic planning in defense is facilitated. Its integral role in these processes highlights the distomat’s importance as a tool in shaping the landscape of modern construction, engineering, and beyond.

In conclusion, the distomat is not just a tool but a critical component of the modern world’s built environment. Its utility and impact underscore the importance of continued advancements in technology and precision instruments, paving the way for progress and development in various industry sectors.

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