Survey Pole Review: Leica AP20 AutoPole Delivers Time Savings, Simplicity and #SurveyFun

Blazing fast, fun to use and virtually foolproof, the AutoPole is proving to be the newest essential tool in this surveyor’s toolbox.

“When there’s a bunch of work to be done and there’s not enough people to do it, speed is absolutely everything.”

— Mark Borys, PLS


Mark Borys, PLS, Survey Director and Owner, BBA Land Surveying, LLC, based in Renton, WA


With more than 20 years of experience working in both small and midsize firms, Borys knows what it takes to deliver quality surveys on a tight schedule. His firm, BBA Land Surveying, which he owns with his wife Nicole, thrives on referrals from happy clients who value them as a partner. The company relies on process automation and a simple but powerful toolkit comprising a Leica GS16 GNSS rover and Leica TS16 total station, sourced from Mack Kowalski at Kuker-Ranken Inc.

In mid-2022, Kowalski invited Borys to test drive the new Leica AP20 AutoPole, a smart prism pole system that automatically measures pole height, identifies and locks onto the correct target, and eliminates the need to level the pole. Borys jumped at the opportunity.

First Impressions

  • “Movement is your friend. More movement seems to calibrate the tilt for best residuals and maintain the initialization.”
  • “[The AutoPole] eliminates bad shots due to storing too late. Hit store the moment the tip is in place and lift off once it says ‘stored.’”
  • “Very communicative. Let’s you know when you can’t use it and won’t let you store in tilt mode if it’s not initialized.”
  • “Plug-n-play; very little training needed.”
  • “Stakeout very helpful. Loses tilt initialization when you set it down, but if you let it keep measuring while you set your point it reinitializes instantly with small movement.”
  • “There seems to be an additional automatic power search when target is lost.”
  • “Automatic pole height does work when running GPS but needs to be connected to the instrument (note there were no markings on this rod for GNSS head unit conversion).”
  • “Won’t let you use for control operations. (I actually view this as a good thing because I wouldn’t want this being used as a shortcut for a control point.)”
  • “Out in the open it’s blazing fast but those 5 or 6 tough shots become fun shots.”
Laying out piles in Bellevue, WA. Source: Mark Borys, LinkedIn >

Business Considerations

  • “I work solo right now and definitely find this tool useful. It will certainly pay for itself, improve my data and make surveying more enjoyable.”
  • “Very simple with built-in foolproofing. It’s hard to take a bad shot or misuse (a plus for younger survey teams).”
  • “Fun. Talent retention seems to be a huge issue these days. Anything we can do to make surveying fun improves talent attraction and retention.”
In the depths of Duvall, WA hunting down a quarter corner. Source: Mark Borys, LinkedIn >
Working with a "deer" companion. Source: Mark Borys, LinkedIn >
Working with a "deer" companion. Source: Mark Borys, LinkedIn >

Key Takeaways

“When there’s a bunch of work to be done and there’s not enough people to do it, speed is absolutely everything. It’s cost effective to buy a piece of equipment that is going to make you that much faster, increase the quality of your work product, and allow you to be more hands-on with your surveys,” Borys says.

“Our capabilities as surveyors are becoming exponentially more effective with this type of innovation. It pays for itself and makes surveying so much more fun.”

To talk to one of our experts and learn more about ways to optimize your surveying potential, please contact us.