Civil 3D Aerial Imagery via WMS

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People love and sometimes hate the Bing Maps satellite aerial image functionality inside AutoCAD Civil 3D and all AutoCAD based apps. Perhaps a lot of you just ignore the whole public image thing? The better view of the big picture context can and does help us get our civil engineering design and survey work done a bit quicker. These days we have more choices. The imagery choices are getting better and better.

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The publically available satellite imagery does get better over time, but it still is not yet the same quality as rigorously gathered and processed aerial photogrammetry. You may be able to get to that level of detail and employ that in your project drawings in a fashion that works much like Bing Maps.

WMS Aerial Imagery Servers

You may have a regional or local agency that publishes their aerial photo imagery via a WMS Server. If you can get access to that, those resources can update the local background image detail considerably.

You can search on the web for a local or regional WNS server(s), but often a phone call or two the regional or local GIS office or department will help you find out if a WMS Image Server in available for your project location. In other words, these days the server maybe out there, but not publically advertised or all that easy to find. People also get confused – an ESRI ArcGIS MapServer resource is not a WMS image Server resource.

To be clear aerial imagery delivered via a WMS Server is not the same thing as access to a file location and the download of the raster aerial images themselves. A WMS Image Server basically takes a dynamic picture of the aerials and sends a png or perhaps a jpeg image for display inside your Civil 3D session at your current display resolution. Yes, the resolution delivered will be constrained by a maximum resolution on the WMS Server. The maximum resolution will be published in the Get Capabilities XML file request response delivered from the WMS server.

Sometimes the web access to the WMS server is completely public. All you’ll need to find is a web location via an http or https address. More often than not these days, it may be available for free, but also require some sort of site registration to identify who you are, some reasonable purpose, and a login to gain access. The USGS WMS site(s) is one such example.

How to Make WMS via FDO Work

Civil 3D and Map 3D Aerial Imagery

AutoCAD Civil 3D and Map 3D will recognize raster file-based references and display aerial TIFFs in the correct location with access to the supporting world geo-reference files.
The raster file attachments are created and managed in the Reference Manager.

Civil 3D and Map 3D may also employ FDO (Feature Data Object) Data Connections to display various types of raster data. Both file-based connections (FDO Raster) and streamed server based resources (FDO WMS) based raster are supported.

FDO Data Connections are a Map 3D functionality included in Civil 3D.

  • FDO connections are created and managed in the Map Task Pane in the Display Manager
  • The drawing should be setup in a coordinate system.
  • The MAPWSPACE command turns On and Off the Map Task Pane.
  • FDO Data Connections are created and maintained in
    Map Task Pane>>Display Manger tab>>Data
    Right click on the Data icon and pick Connect to Data from the right click menu

There are 3 three FDO connection types you may need.

  • WMS
    the background aerial images provided dynamically from a WMS Server
  • Raster
    the static aerial image files referenced as raster files best copied to a local project folder
  • SHP
    the typical AutoCAD Map 3D way to visualize the aerial raster file grid names inside Civil 3D or Map 3D
    You may be able to download a SHP resource to visualize the downloadable raster images in context.

Get That WMS Image into AutoCAD

Published DWFs of aerial images are the easy way to produce aerials for use in standard AutoCAD or AutoCAD LT.

The DWF published from Model space should be created in a Map 3D or Civil 3D drawing with an assigned coordinate system.
AutoCAD will display attached DWFs that include aerial images produced from either referenced images or WMS Server images.

Aerial raster images can be attached as background reference can be added into any version of AutoCAD.
AutoCAD will recognize raster references and display aerial TIFFs in the correct location only with access to the supporting world geo-reference files.
The file attachments are created and managed in the Reference Manager.

Needless to say, if you have Autodesk Raster Design installed you already have all of this aerial imagery in AutoCAD brewhaha licked.

Get the Freedom to Work in Civil 3D

You may also find these video posts from Autodesk's Alan Gilbert useful: