Explore elevation differences within your map and easily leverage that data in Autodesk, AutoCAD, ArcGIS, and other software

Accessing Contour Exports

Contour exports are available to all customers subscribed to a Business or Enterprise plan.

Contours are not available as part of the Pro plan (including 30 day free trials).
If your data was processed while on the Explorer (Free) plan and does not have the Elevation Toolbox, it will need to be re-uploaded and processed to generate the elevation layers.

Why should I use contours?

Elevation maps create valuable insights across industries. Some common uses include:

-Most Computer Assisted Design (CAD) programs use vector maps as the file-format of choice, which makes contours the best representation of the physical world.

-Similar to Construction use cases, contours are heavily used in mining software for volumetric measurements.

-Topographic maps are critical in variable rate fertilization. When it rains, fertilizer/pesticides etc flow downhill with the water, so more is needed higher up, and less downhill.
-Tiling decisions: Contour maps are required when measuring where to draw away excess moisture in the soil (old roof tiles were previously used, hence the name).

What are contours?

Contours are lines of equal elevation relative to a certain point.

Contours are a vector format, which means they are composed of points and lines rather than pixels.

This is the difference between saying "the elevation at this point is 80 feet" and "everything contained within this line is 80 feet or higher than my drone."

DroneDeploy's contours are DSMs not DTMs

DroneDeploy's contours are created as DSMs, not as DTMs.

DSMs include all features within the area of interest.

DTMs contain only elevation of the ground itself. Features such as trees and buildings are not included.

What is the elevation data relevant to?

In your DroneDeploy maps, contour lines are relative to the point of takeoff of the drone unless you have incorporated Ground Control points. This means that your takeoff location is zero, and negative values are lower than your initial launch point. Most GIS programs allow you to add an offset (such as for Mean Sea Level) if needed.

How are contours created on DroneDeploy?

When your drone takes an image, it automatically captures the latitude, longitude, and altitude of the drone's location. The altitude at each point is used to create a continuous surface, which is presented within DroneDeploy as the Elevation Toolbox. This map is a Digital Surface Model (DSM) and not a Digital Terrain Model (DTM).

The elevation points are then subdivided into lines of equal elevation according to the interval you specify (more on that below).

How do I access the data?

Contours are presented as an export option rather than as a map overlay. You can customize the interval, coordinate system, and file type. Read on for more information.

This is all sounds great, so how do I get them?

Exporting your Contour dataset:

In order to export your dataset, please be sure that:

-Your map has elevation functionality
-You are on a DroneDeploy Business or Enterprise plan

All good? Awesome! To receive your dataset follow these steps:

1. Select 'Contour' Data Type

In your map, select 'Elevation layer' and click `Export'.

2. Select 'Contour Interval'

Select the appropriate spacing between the contours i.e. 'Contour Interval'.

What interval should I choose?

Choosing a higher interval will generate fewer incremental lines. So 5-foot increments will generate fewer contours than 1-foot increments. Consider the level of detail you would like to visualize. If you need more variation represented, choose a smaller interval.

Processing Time

Please note, that smaller the increment of your contour, the longer the processing time will take in our systems. Unless you require a high-level of detail in your contours, consider exporting at a higher interval.

3. Select 'Map Projection'

The options are:

-Web Mercator: optimized for Google Earth or other web-based applications.
-WGS84: the standard projection system for most GIS programs
-Custom Projection: relevant for customers who use the State Plane Coordinate System or Universal Transverse Mercator. Please see here for full instructions on how to get your Custom Coordinates .

4. Select 'File Type'

Choose the file format.

Which format should I choose?

Shapefile format (.shp) is georeferenced in the projection system of your choice.

Design Exchange Format (.dxf) is not georeferenced, but is compatible with various engineering software programs, such as AutoCad Civil3D.

-Design Exchange Format

5. Click 'Export' and wait for your email

We will send you an email when the export is ready to download. If you are on a custom domain, please be sure that you have allowed emails from exports@dronedeploy.com to be received.

Export formats

Contours are available in two formats:



Supports custom projection systems

Compatible with ArcMap and other GIS packages

Drawing exchange format


Integration with AutoCad

Does DroneDeploy support .dwg format?

If your software package accepts .dwg files, it should accept .dxf files. The .dwg format is a proprietary format of AutoDesk, and .dxf is the general exchange format.

If you want to learn how to import the contour files (.shp and .dxf) into a GIS software, please review our guide for Importing Data into Other Software.


Explore elevation differences within your map and easily leverage that data in Autodesk, AutoCAD, ArcGIS, and other software