As I’m sure most of my readers are aware, with the 2013 release, the ability to import images from Google Earth was not included. The fine folks at Autodesk have been working on getting us a replacement and this is it (at least for imaging). When you are in a drawing that is georeferenced (the tutorial file “Intro-1.dwg” works if you want to test it out) all you have to do is turn on the image.

In the drawing (with the assigned coordinate system), simply go to the Geolocation tab on the ribbon and choose the Online Map type you want.

Map Type

Map Type

You’ll need to log in to your Autodesk account (if you don’t have one, they’re free) and agree to the terms, etc. etc. Once you’ve done this, your image just shows up (provided you have a decent internet connection). Nothing too new here, we’ve been able to do this for a while (see my other posts HERE and HERE).

So, what’s new in 2015, THEY PLOT!!!!!

Ok, so there’s another step you have to take before they’ll plot but it’s not difficult, you have to capture an area. Once the imagery has been displayed in your drawing, go back to the Geolocation tab and choose “Capture Area”.

Capture Area

Capture Area

After you have captured the area, a new object type will be created, a GEOMAPIMAGE or “Map Image” as it’s displayed on the ribbon when selected. This object will plot as you can see in this plot preview:

Plot Preview

Plot Preview

Another really cool thing about the GEOMAPIMAGE is, if you edit the image extents, the image will update. Simply select the image frame, adjust a grip, and the image updates. Additionally, if you need a better resolution or less resolution, when you select the image, you’ll have those options on the Ribbon.

Image Options

Image Options

Oh, and by the way, this isn’t really a Civil 3D feature, this is a core AutoCAD feature!

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Note from Brian: Something new in the 2015 release. The images plot. HERE

So AutoCAD 2014 has this cool new feature called Live Maps and Geographic Location (basically, AutoCAD now owns the coordinate systems for Civil 3D and Map 3D). When a coordinate system is assigned to the drawing, you get a new tab on the ribbon allowing you to display an aerial map, a road map, and do some cool stuff.

The problem is, this isn’t in Civil 3D 2014 at all. Here are the steps to add this ribbon tab to Civil 3D 2014.

HERE is a video showing the steps

  1. Open AutoCAD 2014. This can either be AutoCAD 2014 or Civil 3D 2014 as AutoCAD 2014.
  2. Go into the CUI (Customize User Interface) dialog box (type CUI at the command line).
  3. In the CUI, go to the Transfers tab and create a new CUI file.
    CUI Transfer Tab

    CUI Transfer Tab 

     

  4. Drag the Geolocation ribbon tab from the ACAD.CUIX file to your new CUI file (just drag and drop)
    Drag and Drop

    Drag and Drop

     

  5. Save the CUI file and close AutoCAD.
  6. Open Civil 3D 2014 and type CUI just like in AutoCAD (don’t go to the Transfer tab, stay on the Customize tab).
  7. Load in the CUI file you saved in AutoCAD
    Open Partial CUI File

    Open Partial CUI File

     

  8. In the just loaded CUI file, drag the Geolocation ribbon tab to the Geo Coordinate System Assigned Contextual Tab State.
    Contextual State

    Contextual State

     

  9. Save and your off and running.

Now, when you assign a coordinate system to your drawing, you can also display aerial maps or road maps in the drawing as well.

Map Display Options

Map Display Options

<UPDATE>
This life of this tool has been extended to August 12th 2013 so get back out there and start using it some more!
</UPDATE>

Do you like using aerial imagery while working in Civil 3D? I know it’s always helped me when I’ve had access to it. You could use Google Earth but it has issues (see why HERE) and there are other alternatives to getting the imagery but they are all pretty tedious. Well, just announce is a new and very simple way to bring aerial images into your drawing.

Just announced is Project Basejump. This is a new product available at Autodesk Labs. This tool will allow you to easily bring in maps from Microsoft Bing. These maps are brought in via the Map 3D FDO tools. Don’t worry if you’ve never used FDO, it’s REALLY easy!

After you install the add-in, simply open up the Map Task Pane. You can access this by typing MAPWSPACE and then choosing the ON option. If you are using Civil 3D 2013, there is a button on the Palettes panel on the Home tab. This button basically runs the MAPWSPACE command so you’ll still have to tell the program you want it ON.

One thing you must do is assign a coordinate system to your drawing. If you don’t do this, your images won’t work. If you aren’t familiar with this, simply right click on the drawing name on the settings tab of the Prospector and choose Edit Drawing Settings. On the Units and Zone tab, assign an appropriate coordinate system to your drawing. If you aren’t sure what to use here, check with your surveyor on the project.

Assign Coordinate System

In this example, I’m using a Colorado state plane coordinate system and I’m in a blank drawing.

If you haven’t done so yet, go install the tool. You can find it HERE. Once installed, go to your Map Taskpane and select the Data button and choose “Connect to Data…”

Connect to Data

This will then bring up the Data Connect panel, also known as “FDO”. If you are familiar with this tool, you’ll notice a new option (in my case it’s the second one listed), “Add Basemap Services Connection”. If you aren’t familiar with this tool, just trust me that it’s new. Select the new connection type, on the right hand side give it a name (I called mine “Bing Maps”),  and then select the Connect button.

Creating the Connection

After selecting the button, you’ll be presented with the available data sources. Simply toggle on the ones you want (go ahead and select them all, it’s easy to toggle them on and off afterwards) and then hit the Add to Map button.

Select the Data

Civil 3D (or Map 3D) will then go out and query the data source and bring in the imagery for the coordinate system you assigned. As you can see in the following image, it brings in data for the entire defined coordinate system (Northern Colorado in this case).

Image Imported

This is a very low resolution image but as you zoom in, you’ll see more and more detail. You can also easily toggle on and off the images using the Map Taskpane. Simply hit the check box next to the image you want and deselect the images you don’t want (I can’t think of any advantage of having more than one turned on at any time). Personally, I kind of like the “Aerial with Labels” map.

Choose Your Image

When you zoom in, Civil 3D will continue to check with the Bing servers and get the best image it can for that specific zoom level. Here’s a picture of my house:

The image is about a year old as we now have grass in our yard and there are several more houses built in the area (we built our house, doing our part for the economy). We don’t live in a big city so the imagery isn’t quite as detailed. If I go check out someplace in Denver, the image is much higher quality:

Home of the Colorado Rockies

Go check it out! Let the developers know what you think. If you have any issues or problems or wishes or complaints, let them know. I’m pretty excited about where this is going.

One thing to note, this is a “Labs Technology Preview”. What this means is the technology might not ever actually make it into the program. In other words, check it out, give your feedback, and do everything you can to let Autodesk know that this is a good tool and they should continue to work on it and eventually make it a part of the program.

Now if they could just get it to bring in DEM information as well…

Note from Brian: There’s some new functionality in the 2015 release regarding images. Check it out HERE.

I’m constantly amazed at how many people import data from Google Earth into Civil 3D and then complain about how horrible the data is. There are two primary issues that I’ve seen when importing data from Google Earth. First of all, the imagery is inconsistent at best. The guys over at Being Civil wrote up a nice post about this issue HERE if you are interested (also, the images come in black and white). The surface data that you bring in is very limited. Sure, you can pick anywhere you want but you are limited to importing 5,000 points and, if you have a large area, that’s not very much data at all (I recently downloaded a DEM file with over 2.5 million points, now THAT’S data!). So, instead of relying on Google Earth, go out and get the data yourself! You’ll be much happier with the results.

For those of you with projects in the United States there is an amazing resource that I was familiar with but never really investigated much, the USGS Seamless Data Warehouse (I was playing around with the Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler and looking for data). You can find it at seamless.usgs.gov. Here you can browse a map to find your project location and download orthoimagery (i.e. aerial images) as well as surfaces (DEM files). You’ll need to create an account to download the data but it’s free.

Using the Seamless Viewer

When you get to seamless.usgs.gov, on the left hand side, there is a panel and on this panel, is a link to the Seamless Viewer (you can access it HERE if you like). It looks a little something like this:

Seamless Viewer Link

Once you click on this, it will take you to a map showing the entire United States (well, most of North America actually). Draw a rectangle around where your project is (you’ll see the state boundaries so use that as a guide and zoom in on the state the project is in). Once at the state level, you’ll probably need some assistance locating your project area. On the right hand side of the map, you can change what is being displayed in the map. By default (at least for me) all it showed was the digital elevation data. That really didn’t help me find the area I was looking for (Colorado is a big state, not as big as Texas of course, but still big) so I toggled on a few options to help me locate my project. The ones that seemed to help me the most were the Orthoimagery, the Transportation, and the Places (Names). As you can see in the following images, it makes a huge difference.

Before Editing the Display Options

After Editing the Display Options

Once you get zoomed in on the area of interest, you need to tell the Seamless servers what it is you want to download. On the right side of the map where the Display options are located, switch from Display to Download.

Download Options

In this case, I chose to download the NAIP (National Agriculture Imagery Program) Orthoimagery as well as the 1/3 second DEM from the National /Elevation Dataset. Once you’ve set what it is you want to download, you need to specify what part of the map that you want the data for. To do this, use the tools on the left side. I chose the “Define Rectangular Download Area” option.

Download Selections

A new window will pop up with links to download each file. The files you’ll get are simple .zip files. Once you unzip them you’ll get a ton of data. For the DEM, the files you need are the ones that end in .adf. Just keep all these files in one location and you can then create a surface from them in Civil 3D. The images will have a lot of files as well but really the only ones you need are the .tif file and the .tfw file. The .tif file is the actual image itself and the .tfw file is the world file. The world file lets Civil 3D properly locate it in your drawing. And honestly, I don’t think you really need the .tfw file as .tif files can have coordinate information embedded into them (aka GeoTIFF). I would still just leave them together to be safe.

Download Files

Using the Data in Civil 3D

Once you have the data, you need to add it into Civil 3D. First thing you want to do before adding in this data is to make sure your drawing has a coordinate system assigned to it. If you aren’t familiar with this, simply right click on the drawing name on the settings tab of the Prospector and choose Edit Drawing Settings. On the Units and Zone tab, assign an appropriate coordinate system to your drawing. If you aren’t sure what to use here, check with your surveyor on the project.

Coordinate System in Civil 3D

To bring the DEM file into Civil 3D, create a surface and add the DEM file as data. I’m not going to get into the details in the post as I’ve already talked about how to bring DEM files in to Civil 3D. You can read it HERE if you like. When you add the DEM file, use the coordinate system code LL83. Also make sure you read the comments as you’ll need create the surface in a metric drawing and use LandXML to bring it into a drawing that is in imperial units.

To bring the images into Civil 3D, use the Map Image Insert command MAPIINSERT (yes, two I’s in there). This will bring the images in georeferenced.

Conclusion

Sure this process takes longer then importing from Google Earth but think of it this way, “You get what you pay for”. In this case, you’re paying with time. Importing from Google Earth is fast but you get very poor data. Getting the data yourself takes a bit longer but you get MUCH better results. Check out this example, in the following image you can see where four of the images downloaded from the Seamless server line up and it’s REALLY close to being exactly matched up (I can’t see any offset or other error personally). Compare that with what you get out of Google Earth.

Image Overlap

If anyone has data sources similar to this for other countries, comment here so others can find them.