Explore elevation differences within your map and easily leverage that data in Autodesk products and other GIS software.


Accessing Contour Exports

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

What are Contours?

Contours are lines of equal elevation relative to a certain point. The contour lines are represented as a vector file format, which means they are composed of 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."

Why should I use contours?

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

Construction: 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.

Mining: 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.

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 around 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 corresponds to a Digital Surface Model (DSM).


DroneDeploy's contours are DSMs not DTMs

DroneDeploy's contours are created as Digital Surface Models (DSMs), not as Digital Terrain Models (DTMs).

DSMs include all features within the area of interest.

DTMs contain only the elevation of the ground itself. Features such as trees and buildings are not included. Please visit our App Market to explore the available Digital Terrain Model apps.

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 resolution or contour interval, coordinate system, and file type. Read on for more information:

Exporting your Contour File

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

-Your map has the Elevation Toolbox functionality
-You are on a DroneDeploy Business or Enterprise plan

All good? Awesome! To receive your contour export please follow these steps:

1. Select 'Contour' File Type

In your map, select the 'Elevation layer' and click Export on top of your side data panel.

Select the "Elevation" layer within the Export side panel.Select the "Elevation" layer within the Export side panel.

Select the "Elevation" layer within the Export side panel.

Now, let's select the appropriate file type, contour interval, and map projection:

2. Select 'File Type'

You have two file format options to export your contour lines, SHP (Shapefile) and DXF (AutoCAD - Design Exchange Format).


Which format should I choose?

Shapefile (.shp) format is a georeferenced file. It takes the projection system of your choice. This file format is compatible with ArcMap and other GIS packages.

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

Select Contour DXF (AutoCAD) or Contour SHP (Shapefile).Select Contour DXF (AutoCAD) or Contour SHP (Shapefile).

Select Contour DXF (AutoCAD) or Contour SHP (Shapefile).


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.

3. Select 'Map Projection'

The options you have to choose the map projection for your contour lines are:

-Web (Web Mercator) EPSG: 3857 / Meter: Optimized for Google Earth or other web-based applications.
-Desktop (WGS84) EPSG: 4326 / Meter: The standard projection system for most GIS programs.
-Custom Projection / Other EPSG Codes: 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.

Choose the map projection that best suits your needs.Choose the map projection that best suits your needs.

Choose the map projection that best suits your needs.

4. Select 'Resolution'

Select the appropriate spacing between the contours or contour interval. Please note that the units of your contour interval (metric vs. imperial) depend on your unit preferences and the unit of the map projection of your choice.


Which interval should I choose?

Choosing a higher interval will generate fewer incremental lines. For example, 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.

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.

Example of the resolution options in metric system.Example of the resolution options in metric system.

Example of the resolution options in metric system.

Did you set all the parameters? Great! Let's export the file:

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 [email protected] to be received.

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

Updated 2 years ago


Explore elevation differences within your map and easily leverage that data in Autodesk products and other GIS software.

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