Automatic Target Tracking
Tracking the marker pole, as the official locates the implement landing spot, is currently a manual process that takes time. Several total station manufacturers have introduced an advanced feature called Automatic Target Tracking which will automatically follow the prism while moving across the field. Leica calls this feature Autolock. The total station will be locked on the target and ready for the laser measurment as soon as the prism is stable. For an experienced Laser Lynx operator, that can cut the measurement time by six seconds. It will save even more time for the less experienced operator.
A total station with the auto tracking features will use servomotors to control the horizontal and vertical adjustments. The servers are very fast. Trimble advertises their MagDrive servo motors operate as fast as 115 degrees per second. The servos may be operated manually or automatically and even remotely with an attached cable or wirelessly via bluetooth, or other radio device.
Total stations may include active or passive target tracking. Trimble offer a MultiTrack Target for both active and passive tracking with their S6 model total station.
...You choose from active or passive tracking with the Trimble MultiTrack Target, the only target of its kind in the surveying industry. Active tracking ensures you always locate and lock on to the correct target. When you're using the Trimble MultiTrack Target, nearby reflective surfaces, such as road signs, cars, safety vests, and other prisms, will not disrupt your surveys....
While officiating at the 2007 USATF Masters Outdoor Track & Field Championship in Orono Maine, two officials from the U.K. described the system used at the IAAF meets. The $60,000 Leica system is owned and operated by Swiss Timing. The system is able to display a mark withing three seconds of implement landing.
I also overheard that, in the USA, there is an official in Colorado who purchased an automatiic tracking total station on eBay.
Here's some info on how target tracking works.
...Two types of automatic target detection are available: EDM signal scanning and video. The former systems can measure to reflector in or near known position and employ the return signal of the distance meter to confirm or improve pointing to these known reflector positions. The latter systems perform target detection with a CCD camera integrated in the telescope. Image processing hardware and software in a system controller conduct automatic target detection and measurement. This system is also called one-man total station, where a person walks about station with a rod and a prism and controls an instrument by a radio modem. Their applications were reported in many project: e. g. monitoring of bridges, landslides, dams and tunnels....
Here are a few random links that describe the auto target tracking systems.
I wonder if the Lynx Developers are already working on such a system. -- Justin (8/2007)