Connect and import imagery from a Web Map Service: FEMA National Flood Hazard Layer Example

A very useful feature of Plex.Earth 4, is the ability to connect to any Web Map Service may be useful for you to work on, and accordingly import imagery to your AutoCAD project.

This process has been vastly improved from the earlier Plex.Earth 3 and supports the import of Tile Servers & WMTS among others.

A vast database of WMS's is readily available for free, especially from government sources (United KingdomUnited States of America etc.) or agencies (e.g. FEMA) relating to useful information for companies and professionals (e.g. flood hazard maps, topographic maps)

In this tutorial, we are going to utilize this feature to connect to FEMA's National Flood Hazard Layer WMS and import imagery into our AutoCAD project, where further editing can take place. Here is how:

Step 1: Open the Map Explorer window

To open the Map Explorer window, simply go to the Plex.Earth 4 ribbon:

- Select "Import Imagery"


- Select "Map Explorer" as the provider


- Click to Open Map Explorer



Step 2: Create a new Map Layer

Once you open the Map Explorer, there will be a background map, to serve as the backdrop to the new WMS layer we will create.

Click on the "+" sign next to the "LAYERS".



Step 3: Setup your new Map Layer

On the dialogue that appears, you will be able to choose the Map Type (Provider) you will be creating, which in this case will be a WMS.



Step 4: Copy the URL of your selected WMS 


Plex.Earth will now prompt you to add a WMS server. All you need to do is copy the URL address of your preferred WMS and paste it to the text box provided. In this example, we are going to use FEMA's National Flood Hazard Layer WMS URL, which can be found in the following link, by scrolling down:




If you wish to try out this WMS, simply copy and paste the following URL, which is specific for FEMA's NFHL WMS Server:

Due to a recent changes in security settings, https links might not work. If that is the case, you can use this link:


 Step 5: Manage your WMS Data Source (layer selection)

Once you have copied the WMS url, you will be able to manage certain aspects of it.


Most importantly, these will be the layers of the WMS you wish to view, or put more simply the information you want to see.

WMS's may contain numerous layers for you to view. It's up to the user to select the desired content of the resulting map.

In this example, we will select the "Flood Hazard Zones", "Flood Hazard Boundaries" and "NFHL Availability" layers




Step 6: Select the Image Format for the WMS

WMS layers are usually non-transparent, thus obscuring the view of the background Map.

Make sure that a /png format is selected. 

If not, then change the Image Format to /png manually. This is essential, as /png formats alone offer the transparency attributes.




Step 7: Personalize your WMS Layer

Once you have closed the management of your Data Source, you can of course continue to customize your WMS Layer, for example by adding a personal thumbnail for the layer.

This Layer, will be stored for future use, so you might as well set it up to suit your preferences.



Step 8: Create the WMS Layer

Once you've completed the creation of your Map Layer, the resulting image in your Map Explorer window, after zooming, should look like this:



If we zoom even closer to the Manhattan area, we can see the Flood Hazard Zones and Boundaries (see Note):




Step 9: Import Imagery

Now, you can easily use any image importing feature of Plex.Earth 4, to go ahead and import imagery from the WMS to your AutoCAD project.





With thousands of Web Map Services available through Open Data sources, containing valuable information for companies and professionals, Plex.Earth 4 offers the capability to view them within AutoCAD, and even import them for further editing and usability.


Note 1: 

Don't be alarmed if the WMS layers you have selected are not showing straight away. Certain layers appear only when you have reached a specific zoom. 


For example, in the FEMA NFHL WMS we just covered, the "Flood Hazard Zones" layer is only available when the zoom (Max Scale Denominator) is set to 1:47247.023810 or lower. 

If we had selected only this layer, we wouldn't have been able to view it, unless we zoomed to an acceptable scale value.


Note 2: 

It is generally advisable, especially if the WMS is not working properly (see Note 1), that you look into the capabilities file for information about the WMS and its parameters.


Often, the capabilities file can be found in the location from which you obtained the WMS Server URL.


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